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Politics aside, ASU expert says schools can help transgender students

ASU expert teaches schools how to be affirming for transgender students.
February 22, 2017

Camellia Bellis of T. Sanford Denny School of Social and Family Dynamics says schools can set non-discrimination policies

As the federal government wrangles over the rights of transgender students, an Arizona State University expert says that politics aside, schools can still create an affirming environment for those children.

President Donald Trump revoked anti-discrimination protections for transgender students on Wednesday; some news outlets had reported disagreement among top federal officials on the rollback.

“I think this step by the administration serves as a blow to transgender youth, but we know that schools and districts around the country still have a moral and ethical and legal responsibility to make sure all students feel safe and free of discrimination and harassment,” said Camellia Bellis, who has worked as an advocate for transgender students and their families.

Last May, the U.S. Education and Justice departments said that transgender students should be allowed to use facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Immediately after that ruling, Arizona joined several other states in a lawsuit challenging that interpretation.

Bellis, a program manager, developed a transgender education program that is being offered to K–12 teachers by Project Connect, part of the T. Sanford Denny School of Social and Family Dynamics at ASU. The workshops trains teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors and other educators in how to create a welcoming atmosphere that helps transgender students learn.

Transgender people have a gender identity, or gender expression, that differs from their assigned sex.

Bellis answered some questions for ASU Now:

Question: How will a rollback on the federal guidelines affect schools?

Answer: It might seem a bit confusing to some schools or districts — what, specifically are they supposed to do? We know that Title IXTitle IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education. and the U.S. Constitution protect transgender students from discrimination. They just don’t have that federal backing right now, and it’s sad because it sends a message to transgender youth in this country that “you don’t matter to the federal government.” And that’s a harmful message to send.

There are no state protections in Arizona for LGBT students, so it really is dependent on districts and schools to have those policies.

We won’t know much more legally until the arguments in front of the Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on March 28 in the case of a transgender teenager from Virginia, Gavin Grimm, who sued for the right to use the boys’ bathroom. at the end of March.

Q: How many transgender students are there?

A: The Williams InstituteThe Williams Institute is a think tank at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. came out last year and said it can be anywhere from 0.3 to 0.8 percent of the population. Those of us who work with trans youths in school think it’s about 1 percent of the population. So if you have 500 students in a school, you’ll have about five trans students. Whether they’re ‘out’ or not is another story.

When we hear a school say, “We don’t have any trans students,” that’s not true. They just don’t know about them.

Q: How can schools affirm transgender students?

A: They can take proactive steps, making sure they have nondiscrimination policies that protect them, specifically stating that they’re allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, and (the schools) will use the asserted pronoun they identify with. They should have conversations with staff. Some have called it a “gender-support plan,” where it spells out exactly what that district’s stand is on bathrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, physical education, how do we keep their files confidential, make sure their (previous) name isn’t launched out there by a substitute teacher?

We recently did a training for high school nurses, and most them didn’t know what their school’s policy was. Can transgender students use the bathroom? They didn’t know.

Taking a stance says, “The federal government may not feel that this vulnerable population needs to be protected, but in this school we will make sure you’re safe and affirmed and we know that when you feel affirmed, you can learn.”

For information on the Transgender Education Program, visit

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Steve Wozniak tells ASU students to create something they ‘desperately want’

Steve Wozniak says a product is good if it 'does good things for you.'
Apple co-founder comes to ASU in nod to National Entrepreneurship Week.
February 22, 2017

Apple co-founder, PC pioneer visits Tempe campus, gives students advice on success, happiness and learning

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

Steve Wozniak, the Thomas Edison of his time, told several hundred students at Arizona State University on Wednesday to create products they “desperately want” and that “motivation is more important than knowledge.”

The Apple co-founder and personal computer pioneer came to ASU as a nod to National Entrepreneur Week and gave an impromptu talk to about 400 students in a courtyard outside an engineering building on the Tempe campus.

“A man who truly needs no introductions,” Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Dean Kyle Squires said before Wozniak’s remarks. “He single-handedly invented the personal computer.”

Students sat on the ground and up in trees to hear Wozniak discuss the secrets of success, happiness and learning for an hour and a half. His impact on their lives was evident: laptops bulging in backpacks.

“I stumbled into computers by accident,” Wozniak began. “I decided early in life I wanted to be an engineer. … In high school we didn’t have computers, but we had great teachers.”

When he was in high school, he raided libraries at Stanford University for everything he could find on computers. “The smartest people in the world don’t lock doors.”

Before Wozniak started Apple, he would come home at night from his job at Hewlett-Packard and do little projects that honed his design skills and critical thinking.

“Having fun in life is more important than being successful,” he said.

He bonded with Steve Jobs over music (Bob Dylan, specifically) and playing pranks on people.

“I was building projects, and he was selling them,” Wozniak said. “The trouble is, he couldn’t design.”

When Wozniak was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard, he pitched the idea of the personal computer. They turned it down.

“In the first 10 years of Apple, we failed at everything,” he said. “Motivation is more important than knowledge.”

What makes a great product? “Something is good because it does good things for you.”

If you build what you want, it will be successful, Wozniak said. He wanted a computer for himself, then created the Apple II. Steve Jobs wanted an iPhone, so he created it. Elon Musk wanted a big electric car, so he built the Tesla.

“(Musk) was doing it for his own use,” Wozniak said. “That’s when you get great products. … The best marketing of all is not ‘Will people like my idea?’ It’s ‘Do I desperately want it for myself?’ If you desperately want it for yourself, you’re going to have a lot better insight than market-research assumptions and guesses and all that stuff.”

That part resonated with Pooja Addla Hari.

"He said that we have to build what we really want and make it sell even if market research says otherwise,” the freshman technology entrepreneurship major said. “It changed my life." 

Wozniak took questions from students.

Did serendipity play a part in his success? “Luck is the greatest superpower of all.”

Where has he directed his philanthropy? “Museums. Divorces. Lots of things.”

Addla Har called Wozniak’s visit the “best thing that ASU has done for us."

"I was really excited when I knew that he was coming and came an hour ahead to get front-row seating,” she said.

Rashmi Bhambhani, a grad student studying chemical engineering, said she was a fan of Wozniak’s innovation, technology and ideas.

The thing he said that resonated with her most was "the want to keep learning because as an engineer that's the one thing you'd look for as inspiration.”

Anya Magnuson contributed to this report.

Top photo: Apple co-founder and PC pioneer Steve Wozniak tells ASU students that the best marketing of all is not ‘Will people like my idea?’ It’s ‘Do I desperately want it for myself?’ Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News