Trump White House Ignores Federal Civil Rights Rulings
The Trump administration has just revoked Obama-era guidance on ensuring the rights of transgender public school students are protected in accordance with federal law. The White House this week repeatedly has stated President Trump believes protections for transgender students should be administered at the state and not at the federal level. Despite the president's beliefs, civil rights are a federal, not state issue.
In a letter signed by officials from the Departments of Education and Justice, a new "Dear Colleague" letter states the Obama guidance is being withdrawn and rescinded "in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved."
Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner posted the new letter to Twitter:
BREAKING: DOJ/Education withdraw guidance on transgender students' rights "in order to further and more completely consider" the issues. pic.twitter.com/5nMr6tcAHY— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) February 23, 2017
Last year Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary John King, Jr., sent a "Dear Colleague" letter explaining how schools can protect transgender students, including allowing them to use restrooms and other public accommodation areas that correspond with their gender identity.
Republicans were outraged and some states sued. The guidance was sidelined by a Texas judge friendly to the religious right.
A draft of the "Dear Colleague" letter rescinding the Obama guidance wrongly relies on the Texas ruling, rather than numerous court rulings that make clear Title IX protects transgender students on the baisis of sex. In a move courts are certain to view as discriminatory, the Trump administration says it is rescinding the Obama guidance in part because schools, parents, and students "have struggled to understand" the guidance. Federal civil rights laws are not flexible based on the ability to comprehend them.
Title IX, the 1972 federal civil rights law 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."
The Trump administration will need to file arguments Thursday to defend its position in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia high school student who is suing the Gloucester County School Board for refusing to allow him access to the boys' room. The board has forced Grimm to use a converted janitor's closet as a restroom.
In an addition reportedly demanded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the draft letter states that the withdrawl of the Obama guidance "does not diminish the protections from bullying and harassment that are available to all students. Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment."
The final version states "All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment."
It's important to note that regardless of the White House's position, Title IX does not change and it still protects transgender students. The law does not change based on who occupies the White House, and the courts will likely rule against the Trump administration's interpretation.
Trump administration notifies Supreme Court:
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