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Obama Administration Issues Directive to Public Schools On Transgender Access to Bathrooms

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The Obama administration is issuing a directive to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity. A letter to school districts is going out Friday signed by officials from both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that provides guidance on how to understand and implement changes. NY Times shared portions of the letter, which also includes a 25 page document about practices schools can take. It says:

A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.

…to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns. As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch asserts that “there is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind,” and believes the guidance will equip administrators, teachers, and parents with information and tools needed to protect transgender students. This comes after North Carolina’s horrendous anti-trans bathroom bill (along with similar discriminatory legislations and hate speech), which Obama criticized in a news conference last month.

The letter states that students are to be treated as the gender they identify with the assertion of a guardian without requiring a medical diagnosis or birth certificate. NY Times points out that while the letter “does not have the force of law” schools that don’t fulfill the expectations “could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.”

Some, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called the guidance “blackmail” and stated the federal government could keep their “30 pieces of silver.” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas called Obama’s intervention “unwelcomed.” However, John B. King Jr., secretary of the Department of Education, says it very well in a statement about how gender identity is protected under Title IX:

No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus.We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.

This decree is a step forward, and I hope that schools will take the guidance seriously to protect transgender children.

(via NY Times, Image via Shutterstock/VGstockstudio)

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