The New York City education department is expanding its guidelines for how LGBTQ students should be treated in schools, making it easier for students to change their name and gender, expanding access to sports teams, and more. 

Under the new rules, students do not need legal documentation to change their name and gender on school records, reversing a previous requirement that advocates had criticized as needlessly restrictive. 

The city will also allow students to participate in competitive sports that align with their gender identity, whereas previously those decisions were made on a case-by-case basis.

Olin Winn-Ritzenberg who helps lead youth programming at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, said the changes feel like “a step towards inclusion.” 

“It feels significant, and like a calling-in by this chancellor, rather than just a scramble to find accommodations,” he said. 

The city also released a new set of guidelines around gender inclusion. Among the new requirements is that health classes can no longer be separated by gender, and they require that puberty lessons be “inclusive and affirming to all genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations, and use gender-inclusive language.”

Bobby Hodgson, a staff attorney at the NYCLU, said the new gender inclusion guidelines go beyond regulating what schools cannot do, setting standards for how students should be supported.

“It does feel like the gender inclusion guidelines are an extra step towards culture change and a comprehensive environmental shift,” he said. “That’s just as necessary as prohibiting blatant acts of discrimination.”

The education department expects to train education department staffers before the next school year starts, and those officials will be expected to filter the new guidelines down to educators at the school level. 

“Schools are safe havens for students to develop their passions and discover their true identities, and these new guidelines celebrate and affirm all students,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement.