In case you’ve been off the grid for the past 24 hours, the federal Departments of Education and Justice released a joint letter on Friday directing schools to protect the bathroom rights of transgender students.
We would like to state for the record that we believe public school bathroom policies should be created at the local level, and that those policies should be in the best interest of ALL students. How that statement is interpreted should again be left up to local school districts.
That said, here are some updates on how school districts around the country are managing this latest directive from President Barack Obama’s administration.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, in a letter to Education and Justice Department officials: “By conditioning the receipt of federal funds on compliance with the ‘significant guidance letter,’ schools have been given an ultimatum: take it or lose it.
Transgender bathroom debate: Oklahoma lawmakers, Tulsa-area districts respond to Obama’s order
Several Oklahoma officials lambasted the move while most area school district officials said they were reviewing the directive.
Tulsa Public Schools appeared to be the only district that formally confronted the issue by updating its policy book last year to expand protections for transgender youth.
Still, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister called the Obama administration edict an “outrageous overreach by the federal government.”
US gives directive to schools on transgender bathroom access
It does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say it’s mean to clarify school districts’ obligations to educate students in nondiscriminatory environments. Educators have repeatedly sought guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.
The guidance comes days after the Justice Department sued North Carolina over a new state law that says transgender people must use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. The administration has said the law violates the Civil Rights Act.
Around the nation
The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.
It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he is prepared to forfeit billions of dollars in federal education funding following an Obama administration directive over bathroom access for transgender students.
Fannin County parents confront school board over possible unisex bathrooms
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Hundreds of parents met in prayer Thursday over a bathroom battle in the Fannin County schools similar to what’s happening in North Carolina.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The dueling lawsuits over North Carolina’s law on bathroom use by transgender people have landed in the hands of three federal judges appointed by Republican presidents, with both sides trying to maneuver into the most favorable courtroom possible.
Legal experts expect some or all of the five cases to be combined. But it remains to be seen whether they will be decided in the court picked by the law’s opponents for its moderate reputation, or in the more conservative court chosen by the measure’s GOP supporters.
“This is definitely a strategic decision by the plaintiffs to file in the district they like best,” said Tom Metzloff, a Duke University law professor and expert on civil procedure.