Obama Administration issues letter of guidance on trans rights

After a handful of states passed anti-LGBT legislation, the Obama administration has issued a letter of guidance on how transgender students should be treated in schools.

By Bronte Price, PoliticKING

On Friday, the Obama administration issued guidance on how public schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

A letter was sent to schools on Friday from the Departments of Education and Justice with guidelines to ensure that "transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment," the Obama administration said Thursday.

"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. "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."

This announcement comes during a legal standoff between the Department of Justice and North Carolina officials over NC’s controversial House Bill 2, which many view as discriminatory against LGBT people.

The letter discusses more than just the bathroom issue, explaining privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics. It guarantees that transgender students have the right to identify in school as they choose. Although the letter is not legally binding, it makes clear that if schools fail to follow these guidelines, they could lose federal funding.

"The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX," the administration said Thursday.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin praised the administration’s guidance on Friday. "These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration's position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity," he said.

"This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools," Griffin added.

According to the letter, schools should let transgender students use bathrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. "As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others' discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex," the letter says.

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