Trump administration rescinds transgender students’ bathroom protections

Protests as Trump revokes guidelines on transgender bathrooms.

The Trump administration has withdrawn a piece of federal guidance requiring transgender students to have unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity, in a move that could embolden many schools to restrict trans rights.

In doing so, the administration has signaled that it does not necessarily interpret current federal civil rights protections as prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.

A joint letter released by the departments of justice and education on Wednesday cited the legal battle on this question as justification for rescinding the guidance, “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved”.

“In addition, the Departments believe that … there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing education policy,” the letter added.

The Obama administration issued the guidance in May 2016, in response to growing confusion and controversy over how schools should accommodate transgender students. The letter released on Wednesday left one major piece of that guidance intact: a recognition that schools bear some responsibility to prevent bullying and harassment of transgender students.

LGBT rights groups on Wednesday assailed the administration.

“This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump Administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Souther Poverty Law Center, said in a statement that by rescinding the guidance “the administration has contributed to the baseless hysteria and panic that puts so many vulnerable transgender youth at risk”.

The White House’s expected move comes one week after Jeff Sessions, the newly appointed attorney general, quietly withdrew the Department of Justice’s participation in the Obama guidance’s legal defence. More than 20 states have challenged the guidance, which applies to all federally funded public schools, in federal court, and the guidance has been blocked by a federal judge. The justice department is no longer asking for a stay of that judge’s decision.

Sessions, who has long been hostile to LGBT rights, reportedly fought for Wednesday’s order over the objections of Betsy DeVos, the new education secretary. The report, by the New York Times, claimed that DeVos asked to preserve protections for students against bullying but was overruled by the president, who sided with his attorney general.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted on Wednesday that DeVos was onboard.

But on Wednesday, a tweet from Devos suggested otherwise:

Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED)

I consider protecting all students, including #LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.

February 23, 2017

States that are suing to block the guidance have called it an intrusion of the federal government and a threat to the bodily privacy of students who are not transgender.

LGBT advocates say there is no evidence of transgender-inclusive policies causing privacy invasions for other students.

James Esseks, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT litigation, said in May: “There have been no disruptions, increases in public safety incidents, nor invasions of privacy related to protections for transgender people. While the Obama administration is being sued, the real targets here are vulnerable young people and adults who simply seek to live their lives free from discrimination when they go to school, work or the restroom.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site here.

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