National News

New York’s Elite Girls’ Schools Are Starting to Admit Transgender Students

Posted June 18, 2018 11:48 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Some of New York City’s most prestigious private girls schools have begun opening their doors to transgender students.

The Brearley School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which is among the most academically rigorous institutions in the city, announced Monday that all applicants who consider themselves female are welcome to apply. And if students no longer identify as female after they enroll, they can continue on at the school.

The Spence School, another elite school on the Upper East Side, announced a similar policy in May.

“Brearley reaffirms its mission as a leader in girls’ education, and going forward will consider all applicants who identify as girls,” the school said in a policy statement called a Statement on Gender Diversity. “In the instance that a current Brearley student no longer identifies as a girl, the school is committed to supporting the child and the family as appropriate to navigate the challenges inherent in being a transgender student in a girls’ school.”

Indeed, the statement was firm that Brearley, which was founded in 1884 as a girls’ school, remained one.

“We expect all students who choose Brearley and continue their education at the school will be supportive of the school’s history, mission and advocacy for girls’ education and women’s advancement,” the statement continued. “While the institutional language of the school is necessarily gendered as we refer to our students as ‘girls' or ‘young women,’ we will make every effort to honor the student’s choice of name and pronoun in our personal communications to, with and about the individual student.”

At the college level, policies on transgender students vary from school to school. Barnard College in Manhattan announced in 2015 that it would begin considering applicants who “consistently live and identify as women,” but it does not accept applications from students who were assigned female on their birth certificates and identify as male. Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on the other hand, does consider those applicants, as well as students who were born female but do not identify as either a man or a woman.

In an email to the Brearley community on Monday, Jane Foley Fried, the head of school, and Ellen Jewett, the president of the board of trustees, said the new policy was the result of years of conversation and study by the trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students.

“Brearley is a school of kindness and community engagement,” Fried and Jewett wrote, “as well as intellectual pursuit.”