In an interview with Buzzfeed News, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it will no longer investigate complaints by trans students that they’re being denied the right to use facilities that match their gender identity.
DoE spokeswoman Liz Hill explained that, according to the Trump administration’s revised interpretation of Title IX protections, “Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”
But she countered, “in the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”
BREAKING: Unified settles transgender lawsuit
— Daniel Gaitan (@dan_gaitan) January 10, 2018
Last month, a trans teen from Wisconsin made history after he won an $800,000 settlement against his school district for barring him from using the bathroom that aligned with his gender identity.
Experts from the Transgender Law Center called the historic settlement a “definitive” protection of trans students under Title IX, but the White House’s new interpretation will likely impact that precedent.
Catherine Lhamon, who oversaw the Education Department’s Office of Civil Right under President Obama, told Buzzfeed the new interpretation “represents an appalling abdication of federal enforcement responsibility, inconsistent with the law and with courts’ interpretation of the law, and totally lacking in human compassion for children in school, whom the Department is charged to protect.”
The news comes after more than a year of attacks on the rights of transgender Americans: In February 2017, the Justice Department officially withdrew the Obama administration’s federal protections for trans students, citing Trump’s belief that the issue “should be decided at the state level.”
In June 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos balked at penalizing schools that didn’t protect LGBT students, insisting it was an issue for “Congress and the courts to settle.”
“On areas where the law is unsettled,” DeVos added, “this department is not going to be issuing decrees.”
Civil rights groups are already attacking the Department of Ed for throing trans students under the bus.
“The courts have already held that discriminating against transgender students violates Title IX,” tweeted the ACLU. “The Trump administration may abdicate their obligation to trans students and their families, but we at the ACLU will not.”
The courts have already held that discriminating against transgender students violates Title IX.
The Trump administration may abdicate their obligation to trans students and their families, but we at the ACLU will not. https://t.co/6xEGJm5WYB
— ACLU (@ACLU) February 12, 2018
“The [U.S. Education] Department is sending a singular message: The rights of trans students don’t matter to them,” wrote Lambda Legal. “Unacceptable.”
The @usedgov is supposed to protect the rights of ALL students. By singling out for dismissal the legitimate concerns of #transgender students, the Dept is sending a singular message: the rights of trans students don't matter to them. Unacceptable.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) February 12, 2018