President Donald Trump’s administration has rescinded protections put in place by the Obama administration, which allowed transgender students to use the restrooms that corresponded with their gender identities.
Opponents of the guidelines have lauded the president’s decision, which the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Education released in a joint statement on Feb. 22, while civil rights groups have condemned the action.
LGBTQ advocates have pointed to the fact that, although the Trump administration’s new guidelines have directed “the policy regarding transgender bathrooms to be decided at the state level,” the action does not change the law regarding Title IX, which protects transgender students.
“Trump’s actions do not change the law itself — transgender students remain protected by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — but abandoning the guidance intentionally creates confusion about what federal law requires,” Rachel Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “The law bars discrimination — the new administration invites it.”
The Empire Justice Center in New York has also blasted the administration’s new directives, saying they were an “indication that President Trump and his administration will not support the basic civil rights of our nation’s most vulnerable LGBTQ youth.”
“It is important to note that the revocation of these guidelines, which helped schools understand how to best comply with existing legal protections, does not revoke those existing legal protections for transgender and gender non-conforming students under both state and federal law, nor does it revoke the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) guidance for NYS public schools,” the group stated.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York State Education Department Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia also released a joint statement on Feb. 23, objecting to the president’s decision, and reminding local school districts that they are still required to protect transgender students under state law.
“Separate and apart from existing federal law, New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act expressly requires all school districts in New York to prohibit discrimination and harassment, on school property or at a school function, on the basis of a student’s gender identity or expression,” the statement said.
According to reports, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was reluctant to rescind the Obama Administration’s guidance, because of the potential harm it could cause to transgender students.
As a result, Devos said she’s directed the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to continue investigating all claims of discrimination, and bullying of transgender students, going forward.
“At my direction, the department’s Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying, and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools,” she stated.
Previously, president Trump had been somewhat sympathetic to LGBTQ rights; however, he has reportedly been swayed by conservatives in his administration who’ve reminded him of his campaign promise to allow states to make the decision regarding transgender bathroom use.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old boy whose Virginia school district barred him from using the boys’ restrooms because he is transgender. Proponents of Obama’s guidelines have said the court’s decision in the case could potentially solidify national protections for transgender students throughout the nation, in the future.