Protests erupt after Trump ends federal bathroom protections for transgender students
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) sent a “dear colleague” letter to public schools, informing them of changes to the “sex discrimination” code that the Obama administration instructed schools to follow.
The original protocol, which was issued in May 2016 by then-President Barack Obama directed public schools and colleges that receive federal funding to allow transgender students to use whichever restroom that match their gender identity.
The Obama administration guidance was based on its interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools.
As Title IX reads: “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.”
The original “dear colleague” letter issuing the guidance says that schools “must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.”
Though the guidance was not legally binding, schools were warned they could face lawsuits or lose funding if they did not follow the new guidance.
The two-page memo from the DOJ and DOE cites the US Court of Appeals, which concluded that the term “sex” in the previous guidelines was “ambiguous and deferred to what the court characterized as the ‘novel’ interpretation advanced in the guidance.”
The DOJ and DOE decided to rescind the old instructions, “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved.”
After the federal guidelines are lifted, the Trump administration will leave the issue to the states, as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement.
"This is an issue best solved at the state and local level," DeVos said. "Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students."
During a press conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that the issue would be left up to the states, saying that “certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.”
Though the bathroom directions will be rescinded, the “dear colleague” letter from the current administration notes that ones covering anti-bullying are expected to remain in place.
“[T]his withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment,” the letter reads.
DeVos was reportedly against Trump’s change, saying that under her direction the Department’s Office for Civil Rights will remain “committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
However, DeVos says that since the guidance was not legally enforced by the federal government, she does not see any “immediate impact to students,” by having them withdrawn.
Soon after the letters were sent, several hundred people gathered outside the White House to protest the president’s actions, chanting: "No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here."
During his presidential campaign, Trump opposed North Carolina’s bathroom bill, announcing on the Today Show that transgender students should be allowed to use whichever bathroom “they feel is appropriate.”
“There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble,” Trump said, adding that state lawmakers should “leave it the way it is.”
When asked if Trump would allow Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, to use any bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower, he said, “that is correct.”
Later that month, Jenner took Trump up on his offer, posting a video to Facebook that documents her using the ladies’ room at Trump Tower in New York.
“Thank you, Donald,” Jenner said. “I really appreciate it.”