HRC today responded to the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind protective guidance for transgender students. Under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education today revoked the Obama Administration’s guidance detailing schools’ obligations to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. While students are still entitled to the legal protections guaranteed by Title IX, today’s action obfuscates schools’ obligations to transgender youth — who face disproportionately high rates of bullying, harassment and discrimination — and sends a dangerous message that the current administration will not enforce inclusive policies or stand up for them at school.
“What could possibly motivate a blind and cruel attack on young children like this?” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “These transgender students simply want to go to school in the morning without fear of discrimination or harassment. The consequences of this decision will no doubt be heartbreaking. This isn’t a ‘states rights’ issue, it’s a civil rights issue. Children deserve protection from bullying no matter what state they live in. Period. The policies included in the rescinded guidance have existed in cities, states, and school districts — from Minneapolis to Fort Worth — for years, seamlessly and successfully affirming and welcoming transgender students in thousands of classrooms throughout the country. Every transgender student should know that, no matter what Donald Trump does or says, there are millions of people who will fight to stand up for them. We are proud to be among them.”
In 2016, the Departments of Justice and Education issued comprehensive guidance to ensure that transgender students were being treated fairly and with dignity in public and federally funded schools. This included having equal access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with their gender identity, honoring a student’s name and personal pronouns, and respecting a student’s privacy regarding their transgender status . Thirteen anti-equality state attorneys general, led by the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed suit challenging the guidance. After a Texas federal judge issued a nationwide hold on enforcement of the guidance, the Obama Administration responded by requesting the court limit the hold to the 13 states filing suit.
A little more than a week ago, just 48 hours after Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General and a day after being sworn in, the Department of Justice moved to eliminate the Obama Administration’s challenge to a nationwide injunction against enforcement of the guidance, allowing the nationwide hold to continue. Despite this action, transgender students facing discrimination can still file suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Transgender youth face significant discrimination and bullying in our nation’s schools, with devastating impact. Seventy-five percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school, according to a recent GLSEN report. And, tragically, nearly 50 percent of transgender people report attempting suicide — a figure that is further elevated among people who experience rejection, discrimination or violence at school or at home.
Transgender youth have also been increasingly targeted by hateful state legislation. Last year, North Carolina adopted the infamous HB2, a law requiring discrimination against transgender people, including in public schools. But North Carolina wasn’t alone; in total, 44 anti-transgender laws were introduced at the state level in 2016. This year, several states, including Texas, are currently considering similar bills.
Yesterday, in response to the DOJ’s action, more than 1,000 parents of transgender children sent a letter to President Donald Trump condemning the decision and calling on his administration to fully enforce federal civil rights laws. The letter, signed by parents from 45 states plus Washington, D.C., was organized by HRC and its newly formed Parents for Transgender Equality Council, a coalition of the nation’s leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people. The parents, representing the thousands of families of transgender children across the country, wrote, “No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of the school day ahead. When this guidance was issued last year, it provided our families — and other families like our own across the country — with the knowledge and security that our government was determined to protect our children from bullying and discrimination. Please do not take that away from us.”