Yesterday, the Trump Administration officially withdrew guidance issued by the Obama administration last year to help schools understand their responsibility to protect transgender students under Title IX. This is a cruel and cowardly attack on transgender students, but no matter what this administration says, the law is still on transgender students' side.
Title IX is the federal law that protects all students from discrimination based on sex, and the vast majority of courts over the past 15 years have recognized that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination. Schools that discriminate against transgender students and deny them an equal education will face lawsuits and will be held liable in court for failing to comply with the law.
Some schools haven't always understood what their legal obligations are, which is why the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice last spring sent a 'Dear Colleague Letter' to every school district in the country reminding them that Title IX protects trans students. The guidance pointed administrators to examples of policies already in place in school districts in every corner of the nation about how to treat trans students fairly.
Wednesday, government officials appointed by President Trump rescinded that guidance, via a new 'Dear Colleague Letter' to schools. The Trump Administration calls this an issue of "states' rights," but in fact states and school districts do not have the ability to disregard federal nondiscrimination laws like Title IX. Every state is required to follow those baseline laws that protect every student's right to a fair and equal education.
By rescinding the guidance, the Trump Administration has not changed the protections that trans youth have, they've just sent a powerful message to schools and to youth that they don't care about the law or about transgender young people's lives.
Transgender Law Center, trans youth, and our allies will not let this go unchallenged. We are ready to take the administration to court, and are currently representing a transgender boy from Wisconsin, Ash Whitaker, who was singled out by his school and required to use a separate bathroom from all other students. That case will be heard by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in March, just a day after the United States Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of another student, Gavin Grimm, who experienced similar discrimination at school.
Incredible young people and families are also sharing their stories and organizing for change through programs like Transgender Law Center and GSA Network's TRUTH project, a youth leadership and media organizing program. As Violet Martinez, a 19-year-old youth council member for TRUTH, shared: "Transgender youth are beautiful, powerful, and we will continue to support each other even when our schools and our government don't have our backs."
Transgender Law Center and GSA Network will hold a virtual town hall with lawyers and youth at 2pm PT/5pm ET on Thursday, February 23 to further explain what this means and what actions lawyers and youth organizers are taking to defend against this latest attack. You can RSVP to join here.
Guest author Ilona Turner is the Legal Director of the Transgender Law Center which works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.
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