Date of Award

Fall 9-6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Graciela Slesaransky- Poe, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Dr. Angela Gillem, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Priscilla Geter-Iles, Ed.D.


A growing body of research reflects the ways in which trans students, who do not adhere to society’s rigid gender binary in practices, policies, and/or norms (Kosciw et. al., 2020; Luecke, 2011; Marine & Nicolazzo, 2014), are ill-served by the current social climates in the majority of our nation’s public schools. Trans students are at a disproportionate risk for harassment, low academic achievement, and school dropout (Payne & Smith, 2018), and transgender individuals experience disparate rates of serious mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, and suicidality (Austin, 2022). Additionally, amid a wave of anti-trans legislation in the United States, the situation for many trans students gets worse by the day (Martino, 2022).

Given the dearth of literature on this topic, the purpose of this qualitative study was to better understand caregivers’ perceptions of their trans children’s experiences in elementary schools in order to deepen educational professionals’ understandings about why they need to make schools gender inclusive and how they might make it happen. Qualitative research methods were utilized to generate data to answer two research questions. Semi-structured interviews were employed to learn more about caregivers’ attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and perceptions.

The data collected in this study showed that, in order for trans students to experience a sense of belonging, schools must offer immediate support to them that considers the following: (a) The Institutional Environment, (b) Classroom Practices, (c) Gender Policing, (d) The Role of Supportive People in the School Community, (e) The Effects of Formal Policies, (f) Professional Development for Teachers, (g) A Position of Responsibility and Vulnerability, (h) Resistance to Diverse Gender Identities, and (i) The Effects of the Political Landscape on Trans Students’ Rights.