Dept. of Ed to public schools: Transgender students can use restroom of choice

The U.S. Department of Education will send guidelines to all public schools on Friday, saying they must give transgender students access to the restrooms, locker rooms, activities and housing facilities they identify with.

“When 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,” reads a portion of the letter.

There is also no medical diagnosis or treatment that transgender students must submit to be treated “consistent with their gender identity.”

The mandate is covered by Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Federal officials say it’s not legally binding, but does threaten lawsuits or loss of federal aid. The issue is already in the federal courts because of a lawsuit between the state of North Carolina and the Department of Justice.

Support from Minnesota Department of Education

In response to the federal guidance, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius released the following statement of support:

"All of our students deserve safe and supportive places where they can learn, thrive and succeed.

Minnesota has come a long way the past several years to create schools that are welcoming and inclusive. In 2013 we replaced one of the weakest anti-bullying laws in the nation with the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, and the School Safety Technical Assistance Center at the Minnesota Department of Education continues to provide support and assistance to schools as they strive to make student safety a top priority.

I applaud the guidance from the U.S. Department of Education that clarifies what we've believed all along—that gender identity is protected under Title IX, and that all students have a right to attend a school that is safe and discrimination-free."

What they're saying

Secretary of Education John B. King: “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus. This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly – that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.” 

Attorney General Loretta Lynch: “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex. This guidance gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies. I look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Education – and with schools across the country – to create classroom environments that are safe, nurturing, and inclusive for all of our young people.”

Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon: “Our federal civil rights law guarantees all students, including transgender students, the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities without sex discrimination as a core civil right. This guidance answers questions schools have been asking, with a goal to ensure that all students are treated equally consistent with their gender identity.  We look forward to continuing to work with schools and school communities to satisfy Congress’ promise of equality for all.”

Sen. Al Franken: “LGBT students—like any other students—should never feel like they don’t belong. Unfortunately, we’ve seen far too many attempts to marginalize and discriminate against our LGBT students, neighbors, and family members. I am very pleased that the Obama Administration took real action to ensure that we are providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. This is a big win.” 

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