President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday rescinded protection for transgender students (despite the reservations of the education secretary) that has allowed them to use bathrooms that correspond with their identity, and in the process enabled schools to discriminate against transgender students.
Here are the Trump administration letters formally revoking federal protections for transgender students pic.twitter.com/yS28eEhLtx— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 23, 2017
In May, under former President Barack Obama, the departments of education and justice issued guidelines instructing any school that receives federal funding would have to allow transgender individuals to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, rather than the sex written on their birth certificates.
However, the top federal education and justice department officials notified the Supreme Court that they have rejected Obama’s administration stance that required students be covered under Title IX, the statute that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
The joint letter by the two departments, which will be circulated to public schools, does not offer any new instructions, instead stating the old bathroom rule needed to be withdrawn because it lacked proper legal basis, did not pass through public vetting process, was ambiguous and resulted in “significant litigation.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the decision claiming the act does not apply to LGBTQ issues because there was no discourse of gender identity when the statute was passed in 1972 — however judges do interpret old laws in the Constitutions to apply to new situations that arise.
The “bathroom debate” sparked conflict in the Trump administration when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos initially refused to sign the letter citing the potential harm to transgender students that repealing Title IX could cause.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has opposed expansion of LGBTQ rights and who wanted to quickly roll back the policy, initially pushed DeVos to relent. After not receiving her approval, he took his objections to the White House, where Trump sided with him and in an Oval Office meeting with DeVos, told her to drop her opposition.
The education secretary bowed down to the president but her discomfort was easily noticed in the statement she released on Wednesday in which she said protecting all students, including ones from the LGBTQ community was “not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.”
But she also admitted bathroom access was not a federal matter and the issue should be “best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find ? and in many cases have found ? solutions that protect all students.”
The reversal of Title IX immediately drew backlash from civil rights activists who accused Trump of backing down from his campaign promises to expand gay and transgender rights. Advocates believe rescinding the federal guidance will leave vulnerable, transgender students even worse off and will additionally create another layer of confusion for schools.
“The consequences of this decision will no doubt be heartbreaking,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “This isn’t a states’ rights issue; it’s a civil rights issue.”
"They have sent a deeply troubling message to students that the administration will not stand up for students’ civil rights,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella organization that includes teachers unions and the NAACP, said in a statement.
“Attacking our children .?.?. is no way to say you support and respect LGBTQ people,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Hundreds of people made their displeasure clear outside the White House with chants of “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”
Trump's action sends a terrible message to transgender students. But these students should know the law is on their side. #StandWithGavin— ACLU National (@ACLU) February 23, 2017
The plans to reverse protections for transgender students by rescinding the #TitleIX guidance, are dangerous, ill-advised & unnecessary.— Lily Eskelsen García (@Lily_NEA) February 22, 2017
Trump came for Muslims, then for the undocumented, then for the indigenous at Standing Rock, then for the trans community - who is next?— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) February 23, 2017
Trump withdrew protections of transgender students today calling it a "state issue". Human rights are not a "state issue"! #resist— Alternative NOAA (@altNOAA) February 23, 2017
Being a President for "all Americans" should include transgender students who deserve schools free of discrimination.— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) February 23, 2017
What do we do when our nation's transgender students are under attack?— Civil Rights (@civilrightsorg) February 23, 2017
Stand ???? up. Fight ???? back. #ProtectTransKids
Protections for transgender students is not a states' rights issue, it's a human rights issue. #ProtectTransKids— Jesse Arreguin (@JesseArreguin) February 23, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters