On Wednesday, February 23, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice rescinded the guidance
issued by the Obama administration on accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students under Title IX. The Obama administration guidance had helped ensure that transgender students were treated fairly in federally funded schools, including by having appropriate access to facilities consistent with their gender identity, having their names and pronouns respected, and having their privacy and dignity preserved. The original guidance had been requested by teachers and school administrators and provided clarification to current law.
In a letter organized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) “Parents for Transgender Equality Council,” more than 1,000 parents of transgender children from 45 states and Washington, D.C., recently urged Trump not to rescind this guidance.
Research shows that trans students encounter high levels of discrimination and harassment on campuses. For example, the 2015 “Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct
,” which involved 27 colleges, found that trans and gender-nonconforming students experienced greater rates of sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, and stalking than any other campus group. In the 2015 “U.S. Transgender Survey
,” the largest study ever conducted of trans people in the U.S., nearly one-quarter of the college student participants who were out, or perceived as trans, on campus had been verbally, physically, or sexually harassed.
“Research has consistently shown that transgender students are more likely to face severe violence and discrimination at school than their peers, and at greatly increased risk of suicide and self-harm as a result,” said GLSEN’s Executive Director, Dr. Eliza Byard. “GLSEN’s ‘National School Climate Survey‘ has shown that 76 percent of transgender students felt unsafe at school simply because of their gender. We also know that transgender students who are allowed simply to be themselves at school are as healthy and happy and successful as their peers. Rescinding guidance designed to help schools help them makes zero sense.”
Byard added, “The administration’s actions today do not and cannot change the well-established legal foundations upon which the federal Title IX guidance is based. Many federal courts have already determined that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection extend to transgender individuals. Fairly applied, the law remains on our side.”
“We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but his attack on transgender children today is a new low,” said Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven. “The U.S. Department of Education’s decision to withdraw guidance clarifying the rights of transgender students endangers the well-being and safety of children across the country. 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. The law bars discrimination – the new administration invites it.”
Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, said, “Today’s action hurts thousands of young people and sends the message that President Trump and his administration do not value the well-being of our country’s transgender students. The guidance was aimed at ensuring transgender students – who already face exponentially higher levels of bullying and harassment than their peers – could participate fully and succeed in school just like their non-transgender peers. Although rescinding the guidance has zero impact on Title IX’s legal requirements, it does signal a disdain for the welfare of transgender youth that directly contradicts President Trump’s previous statements that he supports the fair treatment of LGBT Americans. We strongly urge President Trump to consider the people and families impacted by his policy edicts before taking any additional measures that will harm LGBT Americans.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray
said, “The bullying coming from the White House reached even more alarming levels today when the Trump administration specifically began targeting school kids. By rescinding federal guidance from the Department of Education to stand up for Title IX protections allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, the new administration is sending a message that it no longer respects individual rights and ratcheting up the fear among marginalized communities.”
For the for the last 11 years, Washington state law has protected transgender students. The 2006 passage of the Anderson-Murray Act, which Murray co-sponsored when he was a state legislator, specifically protects transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations. In 2015, Murray passed legislation requiring all City-controlled and privately operated places of public accommodation to designate existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender facilities.
“Unlike the Trump administration, Seattle is committed to expanding rights – not undoing them,” Murray said. “As the new administration continues to assault civil liberties, we will stand up for all students in Seattle schools. We will also stand by court precedent.”
A statement by Campus Pride read, “Every young person deserves a safe space to go to school. Colleges and universities have no reason to not continue offering safe, equitable public accommodations and transgender inclusive policies. The actions taken today to rescind the Obama administration’s guidance under Title IX is dangerous and sends a wrong message for ensuring safety in our schools. Institutions of higher education must stay the course and continue to do the right thing implementing and supporting actions to protect transgender students.”
“PFLAG hearts everywhere are with the worried parents who will be kept awake tonight, and the kids who will be scared to go to school in the morning,” said PFLAG National Interim Executive Director Elizabeth Kohm in a statement. “Tomorrow we will fight even harder for the protections that Title IX still affords all transgender youth across the country.”
“We are outraged at this incredibly harmful decision to rescind crucially important guidance ensuring transgender students are treated with dignity and respect. Our military families with transgender children are especially fearful about the impact this harmful decision will have on their families,” said American Military Partner Association (AMPA) President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “With often no choice where they are stationed, this decision will have profoundly negative consequences for these military families – families who already face significant challenges in their selfless service to our nation. It is crucially important now that school administration officials stand in the gap and ensure the civil rights of transgender students are enforced.”
“Leaving the civil rights of our transgender daughter up to the states to decide places my family at the mercy of the state we are assigned,” said Jessica Girven, an AMPA member and mother of a transgender daughter whose Air Force family is scheduled to move back to the states from their duty station in Germany soon. “My husband has dedicated 15 years to his country, and it is the only life we have known as a family. But now, we feel like we are being forced to choose between service to our country and what’s best for our child. No parent should ever have to choose that.”
AMPA is urging transgender students facing discrimination to file suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said, “This is deeply disappointing and a huge step in the wrong direction for the schools across the country who asked for this guidance and the transgender students that have benefited from greater clarity about their rights. This shameful move may make extreme conservatives happy, but President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, and Secretary DeVos are reneging on their chief responsibility to ensure all students have a safe place to learn, regardless of their gender identity.”Murray added, “It is especially troubling to learn of reports that President Trump and Attorney General Sessions steamrolled this action through even after hearing concerns from others in the Administration. It appears Secretary DeVos has caved to pressure from President Trump and Attorney General Sessions and allowed this harmful action to move forward, even after hearing from so many people nationwide that rolling back these clear protections would be absolutely wrong and should not be done.”
Murray vowed to “do everything I can to move us in that direction despite this reversal.”
The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the historic transgender equality case G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board on March 28. The case is being brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Virginia transgender boy named Gavin Grimm. Grimm is challenging a policy in his local school district that singles out transgender students for discrimination and prohibits him from using the boys’ restroom at his school. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Gavin last year. It is the first-ever case on transgender rights to go before the Supreme Court.