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US Education Department refuses transgender students' bathroom cases

They officially will no longer investigate any claims

US Education Department refuses transgender students' bathroom cases
Poster at the University of Oregon's student government supporting LGBTI students. | Photo: Flickr/Wolfram Burner

The US Education Department is refusing to hear or investigate any transgender student’s bathroom complaints going forward.

If a school discriminates against trans students by refusing them access to restrooms that reflect their gender identity, the students will no longer have the protection of the government.

At the beginning of Trump’s administration, they chose not to challenge an injunction on the anti-discrimination law of Title IX.

Title IX prohibits schools from discrimination the basis of sex.

Though the Department made no formal announcement, they confirmed their stance to BuzzFeed News.

Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, told them: ‘Yes, that’s what the law says.’

This was in answer to a question about Title IX not protecting trans students.

Se further clarified: ‘Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity. Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.’

However, Title IX does not cover bathroom use.

The bathroom issue that won’t go away

Using the bathroom that corresponds to a person’s gender identity is a long-standing issue in the US.

It started to gain prominence statewide in North Carolina and then Texas. Now, Iowa’s legislature introduced yet another bathroom bill.

The Education Department’s new stance is not surprising given the Trump administration’s track record.

Over the first year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed protections for trans workers. He also issued religious freedom guidelines threatening LGBTI rights.

Plus, the administration sides with the baker in the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

A shocking admission

In an emailed statement to GSN, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called the Department’s response a ‘shocking admission’.

HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: ‘While civil rights advocates have suspected that the Department of Education was not acting on complaints brought forward by transgender students, reports that these violations are completely being ignored are reprehensible.

‘The department’s failure to act conflicts with the law in multiple jurisdictions, including federal circuits, and further emboldens those who seek to discriminate against transgender students.’

‘Once again,’ Warbelow continued, Secretary DeVos proves a lack of interest ‘in protecting transgender students’ and instead wants ‘to advance the dangerous Trump-Pence anti-LGBTQ agenda’.

Federal appeals courts in the 6th and 7th Circuits previously ruled Title IX does protect trans students.

What will the blowback be?

In August, Lambda Legal sued the Justice Department regarding Title IX protections.

Just last week, over 700 parents of trans students signed a letter condemning Secretary Betsy DeVos for not protecting their children.

With this new responses, there will likely be more criticism and action.

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