President Donald Trump’s administration is said to be working, as of today, on a new set of guidelines and directives that will govern the use of bathrooms in schools by transgender students, the Associated Press reports, citing the White House.
A directive came out of the Obama administration, via the Education and Justice departments, that told schools it was their duty to protect transgender students under Title IX, but as soon as that directive was issued, about half the states sued the federal government over the issue.
Transgender advocates fought back, but the DOJ seems now to be ready to throw out the Obama directive and issue new guidelines. That has many advocates upset.
“Students across the country depend on this guidance to ensure they are treated with respect and given the same opportunities at success,” said Nathan Smith, director of public policy for GLSEN, an advocacy group for LGBT students, in an email to members on Monday night.
A case now pending in the US Supreme Court from Virginia is scheduled to be argued next month. More than 35 amicus briefs were received in the case of Gloucester County School Board v G.G., which will determine “whether, with or without deference to the agency, the Department of Education’s specific interpretation of Title IX and 34 C.F.R. § 106.33, which provides that a funding recipient providing sex-separated facilities must ‘generally treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity,’ should be given effect.”
Mr Trump has said transgender bathroom use is on the list of subjects that should be delegated to the states, not to the federal government. “I think that all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time, that this is not something the federal government should be involved in, this is a states’ rights issue,” the AP quoted Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary, as saying.
As of today, 15 states have explicit protections for transgender students similar to the Obama administration’s directive. Many school districts also have gender identity policies in place, according to Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.
Lawmakers in at least 10 states, however, are said to be considering laws like the one in North Carolina, which restricts bathroom access to a student’s sex at birth, although North Carolina is the only state that has such a law on the books today.
On their side of the debate is the general understanding that Title IX, on which the DOJ and ED based their directive, protects students on the basis of their “sex,” not their “gender identity.”
Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, was quoted as saying the directive violates the rights of other students, such as girls who may have suffered from sexual abuse. “It’s understandable when a 16-year-old girl might not want an anatomical male in the shower or the locker room,” he said.