Last night the Trump administration officially revoked an Obama-era guidance reminding public schools that a provision in a 1972 federal law known as Title IX prohibits discrimination against transgender students, including denying them access to the restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
It has been reported that there was some disagreement between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about rescinding the guidance. If that’s true, then Sessions – who supported withdrawing the guidance – prevailed.
To be clear, Title IX still protects trans students’ rights. But this reversal on the guidance will have grave consequences.
Federal policies should protect the rights of all public school students.
The guidance provides examples of best practices from schools across the country that already follow Title IX’s requirements. The federal guidance came at the request of the many other public schools that take seriously their duty to protect all students against discrimination, including transgender students, but just need a little more support and a road map. Now that the guidance is gone, it will be much harder for them to explain why protecting transgender students is required by federal civil rights law to the vocal minority who would have the public schools go back to shunning these students.
For example, when Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student from Virginia, was permitted to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity, some members of the community complained, asserting religious and moral objections to transgender people. The local school board responded with a new policy that prohibits the student from using the boys’ bathroom, meaning that Grimm must use a special restroom in the nurse’s office or else go all day without using the restroom at all. That’s unfair and cruel. And without this guidance, more transgender students could face the same indefensible treatment.
Grimm challenged his school’s unfair, discriminatory policy in court and now his case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., will be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Americans United will file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Grimm.
As recently as last month, the Trump administration declared itself to be “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.” But actions like this speak louder than words. And this comes on top of the administration’s acknowledgment that President Trump is considering signing an executive order that contains perhaps the most sweeping attack on LGBTQ and women’s rights in the name of religion that we have ever seen.
Americans United we will continue to fight for the rights of transgender students to live free from discrimination – because religion is never an excuse to discriminate against someone.