Friday, May 13, 2016

The Obama Administration Directs Schools To Allow Transgendered People Access To Bathrooms

Today the Obama administration will direct schools and colleges nationwide that they must allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The Justice Department and the Education Department has sent a warning to educators to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, regardless of what sex is listed on student records.

Today’s guidance tells schools that they must take action to prevent harassment of students based on their identity as transgender, and that they cannot prevent trans students from using bathroom or locker room facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

Though the administration acknowledges this is "new terrain" for some people it says it wants to help school districts avoid running afoul of civil rights laws saying that…

No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” 

Federal officials say today’s actions are in direct response to a “growing chorus of educators, parents, and students around the country” asking how schools must treat transgender students in compliance with Title IX and other civil rights laws. 

The Education Department has previously reminded schools that Title IX protects transgendered students from discrimination, but today’s materials include more comprehensive advice as well as a letter analyzing legal implications and a 25-page document outlining such policy suggestions…

Under Title IX, a school must treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their education records or identification documents indicate a different sex. The Departments have resolved Title IX investigations with agreements committing that school staff and contractors will use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity.

In addition, if a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities...

transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” and that schools are not allowed to segregate based on “broad generalizations or stereotypes about the differences between transgender students and other students of the same sex.

The letter also addresses university housing, declaring that schools must allow transgender students to “access housing consistent with their gender identity.” This means a university could be held in violation of Title IX for barring a student who was born a male, but identifies as a female, from living in a women’s dorm.

The letter notes that Title IX does not apply to admission of students to single gender schools, like women’s colleges, or for fraternities or sororities’ membership.

The letter does not impose any new legal requirements, but adds that if a school refuses to fix a policy that violates the law, the U.S. could revoke federal funding, which could shut down a college or university. 

The letter is signed by Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department, and Vanita Gupta, the top civil rights attorney in the Justice Department.

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