The Trump administration withdrew former President Obama’s Title IX guidance Wednesday, which allowed public school students to use restrooms of their choice.
Andrew Clampitt, a spokesperson for Monroe County Community School Corporation, said the reversal of the guidance changes nothing for MCCSC schools regarding treatment and policy toward transgender students.
“As a school corporation we are forward-thinking in all aspects of diversity,” Clampitt said. “We mean ‘all’ in the truest sense of the word.”
Clampitt said Bloomington High School North and South include four all-gender, also known as “gender neutral,” bathrooms between them — two at each school.
“All of these bathrooms are accessible for any student and specific questions are certainly encouraged,” Clampitt said.
In a letter the Department of Education and the Department of Justice jointly issued Wednesday, the Trump administration said concerns over litigation and “due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy” were among reasons for withdrawing the Obama administration’s guidance.
The Obama administration’s guidance was not an official piece of legislation but an interpretation of existing Title IX law.
When it was issued in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter in May 2016, it directed every public school to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. Title IX’s prohibitions of discrimination on the basis of sex were interpreted as also extending to transgender students.
“In recent years, we have received an increasing number of questions from parents, teachers, principals and school superintendents about civil rights protections for transgender students,” the letter read. “Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its implementing regulations prohibit sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance. This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.”
The letter, referred to as a guidance document, informed schools that compliance to Title IX included accommodations for and equal treatment of transgender students. A school’s failure to comply with the guidelines may have resulted in law suits or a loss of federal funding.
In the letter the DOE and DOJ issued, the Trump administration suggested the guidance document was questionable.
“These guidance documents do not contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX,” the letter said.
A statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the federal government should not be the source of solutions for transgender students.
“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” DeVos said in the statement. “Schools, communities and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.”
In a Wednesday press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said interpreting Title IX, which was enacted in 1972, as including protection for transgender students could be “preposterous.”
“And so it’s incumbent upon us to actually follow the law and to recognize that Title IX never talked about this,” Spicer said. “There was no discussion of this back then. And to assume certain elements of the law were thought of back then with respect to this would be completely preposterous.”
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the reversal.
“This Administration’s action sends a harmful message to transgender young people — that their government does not support them, and that it is fine to single out those who are different,” Keisling said in the statement. “But it does not change the legal and moral duty of schools to support all students. That’s why the nation’s education leaders and more and more schools in every part of the country are supporting transgender students, and that won’t change.”
The Trump administration has not offered a new view or interpretation of Title IX and sex discrimination. Spicer said the reason the Obama-era guidance was revoked so quickly was due to an impending Supreme Court case regarding Title IX and transgender student Gavin Grimm.
Grimm is a transgender 17-year-old high school student from Virginia whose suit against his high school is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 28. Grimm identifies as male and used male-identified bathrooms at his high school. When the school received complaints, it changed its policy to mandate that students only use bathrooms that match their biological sex.
Grimm’s Supreme Court case may determine if the Supreme Court stands behind the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX’s protections extending to transgender students.
“I realize now this is a lot bigger than myself,” Grimm said in a video made by the American Civil Liberties Union. “And my greater goal now is to try to make things better for the people that come after me. I can’t speak for everybody, but there are things that need to be spoken about.”
Prism, a Bloomington youth organization inclusive of all gender and sexual orientations and part of Bloomington PRIDE, could not be reached for comment before press time.