Widespread condemnation of Trump’s rescission of Title IX Guidance clarifying protections for transgender studentsTop Highlights, Around the Nation, Breaking News Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
The rescission of Title IX guidance, which clarifies protections for transgender students under the law has been broadly condemned by LGBTQ , civil rights groups and others alike.
In the past fifteen years, schools, courts, and federal agencies have recognized Title IX’s mandate to ensure equality for transgender students. The department’s action is contrary to many court rulings, including those of five federal appeals courts, which have held that federal sex discrimination laws protect transgender people. Today’s announcement undermines decades of effort by teachers, school administrators, students and parents to increase access to public education for all.
Today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN, the National Women’s Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, and MALDEF issued the following statement in response to Trump’s action.
“The U.S. Department of Education has a critical and well-established role in clarifying and enforcing civil rights protections for all students. The department has an obligation to ensure that all students have equal educational opportunities, a mandate that applies regardless of a student’s gender identity. Transgender students who face discrimination in schools have worse educational outcomes, and poorer psychological well-being than their cisgender peers.
“The guidance released by the Departments of Justice and Education last May clarified for school districts across the country that transgender students are protected under Title IX, an existing federal civil rights law that protects students from discrimination based on sex. The guidance presented best practices from schools across the country and advised schools on complying with the law. School districts received much-needed clarification that, under federal law, they must treat students equally and with dignity, consistent with their gender identity. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of transgender students received a clear message: the law was on their side.
“By rescinding the guidance today, the Trump administration has taken the opposite stance. They have sent a deeply troubling message to students that the administration will not stand up for students’ civil rights. We condemn the administration’s decision, vow to fight to enforce Title IX, which continues to protect transgender students, and call on individual schools and districts to treat students consistent with their gender identity and consistent with the rescinded guidance that accurately explained the law.”
Sen. Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) said, “That the president would attempt to roll back basic civil rights for transgender students is unsurprising, but still infuriating. It shows that he either doesn’t understand – or simply doesn’t care – that what’s he’s doing is akin to telling girls that they have to use the boys’ bathroom, and vice versa. Let me be clear: California will not go back. We will continue be a source of compassion and remain free of mean-spirited prejudice.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq. said, “There is no legal basis for this shift in federal policy, which is driven by the anti-LGBT agenda of Vice President Pence and Attorney General Sessions. Since our founding, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has stood for the principle that every child deserves love, respect, and recognition for who they are. We have advanced this vision for 40 years, and we do not intend to let this administration’s irresponsible and cowardly actions get in the way of fighting for our youth. The laws of many states and the District of Columbia already reflect our shared commitment to making schools safer for LGBTQ youth, and numerous federal courts have agreed that Title IX protects these students as well. We will not let Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence, two of the most openly anti-LGBT public officials in our nation’s history, erase the gains we have made.”
American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project Director James Esseks had the following reaction: “Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. But the bottom line is that this does not undo legal protections for trans students, and school districts can and must continue to protect them and all students from discrimination. School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we’ll see them in court. We will continue to fight for the rights and dignity of transgender youth, especially now that the Trump administration has decided to turn its back on them.”
ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block, who is lead counsel for Gavin Grimm at the Supreme Court in March in the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., said: “While it’s disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means. When it decided to hear Gavin Grimm’s case, the Supreme Court said it would decide which interpretation of Title IX is correct, without taking any administration’s guidance into consideration. We’re confident that that the law is on Gavin’s side and he will prevail just as he did in the Fourth Circuit.”
Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal, called out Trump as a bully who had reached a new low in attacking children, “We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but his attack on transgender children today is a new low. The U.S. Department of Education’s decision to withdraw guidance clarifying the rights of transgender students endangers the well-being and safety of children across the country.
“Trump’s actions do not change the law itself—transgender students remain protected by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—but abandoning the guidance intentionally creates confusion about what federal law requires. The law bars discrimination – the new administration invites it.
“Betsy DeVos became Education Secretary just one week ago. At her brief confirmation hearing she publicly committed to protecting LGBT students – this harms them.
“Over the past week Donald Trump has attacked perhaps the two most vulnerable groups of children in America: transgender children and refugee children. While his Education Secretary was busy withdrawing protective guidance for trans kids, his Homeland Security Secretary signed memos that strip legal protections from children who arrive alone at our borders, seeking refuge.
“Now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary DeVos give us sickening echoes of the racially segregated schools era by claiming that enforcement of this federal civil rights law is a ‘states’ rights issue.’ This is not just a bizarre misunderstanding. We recognize that language. This is a cynical rejection of the federal government’s responsibility to enforce federal law protections for vulnerable students.
“While the Trump/Pence administration wages its War on Children, Lambda Legal will redouble our efforts to protect transgender and other vulnerable kids. At Lambda Legal, we are already in court fighting for transgender students, and we are prepared to sue any school district that discriminates in the wake of the Trump administration’s actions today.”
Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation said, “We stand with transgender students and their families in strong resistance to bullying, even when it comes from the White House. All students, including transgender students, should have a fair opportunity to participate fully and succeed in school. The nation’s leading educators and child health experts agree that it is best for all students when transgender students are treated consistently as the gender that matches how they live every day.”
GLSEN’s Executive Director, Dr. Eliza Byard, issued the following statement in response. “Supports for transgender students in K-12 schools change and save lives, and hurt no one. President Trump’s reversal of federal guidance affirming Title IX protections in schools undermines the settled expectations and protections afforded by federal law, hurts transgender students and impedes the progress we have made creating safer and more inclusive learning environments for all.
“While the Trump administration may abandon transgender students, GLSEN won’t. And neither will the thousands of teachers, administrators and parents around the country who work with GLSEN and our local Chapters to ensure that transgender students everywhere have the opportunity to simply be themselves and live better lives. Schools, leaders and teachers must do the right thing and give all students the chance in life they deserve.
“Research has consistently shown that transgender students are more likely to face severe violence and discrimination at school than their peers, and at greatly increased risk of suicide and self-harm as a result. GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey has shown that 76 percent of transgender students felt unsafe at school simply because of their gender. We also know that transgender students who are allowed simply to be themselves at school are as healthy and happy and successful as their peers. Rescinding guidance designed to help schools help them makes zero sense.
“The administration’s actions today do not and cannot change the well-established legal foundations upon which the federal Title IX guidance is based. Many federal courts have already determined that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection extend to transgender individuals. Fairly applied, the law remains on our side.”
The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus denounced the Trump Administration’s revocation of the landmark U.S. Departments of Education and Justice joint guidance confirming that Title IX’s sex nondiscrimination provisions applied to transgender students.
“President Trump’s decision to rescind this guidance is cruel,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Executive Director Roddy Flynn. “This nondiscrimination guidance was based on years of court opinions and best practices developed by experts in the field. This President, who previously promised to maintain LGBT nondiscrimination protections, has turned his back on the transgender community and shown a willful disregard for the safety of transgender students everywhere.”
Gina Duncan, Transgender Inclusion Director for Equality Florida said, “This comprehensive guidance put in place by the Obama administration helped provide every student a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future—including students who are transgender,” said Gina Duncan, Transgender Inclusion Director for Equality Florida. “Schools should be safe places for LGBTQ students who are already at a disproportionate risk for bullying and harassment. Rescinding the guidance yesterday has sent the message to transgender youth that the President of the United States doesn’t have their backs.”
The Trump administration’s actions, while deplorable, in no way diminishes a school district’s absolute legal obligation to protect transgender students from discrimination including allowing them to access the bathroom that aligns with their affirmed gender. Under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, public schools can and should face consequences if they allow mistreatment of LGBTQ students. However, what the President has done is certain to create new confusion and has put an even bigger target on the backs of children who already face tremendous levels of bullying and harassment.
This announcement is devastating to one of our most vulnerable and unprotected populations, transgender youth. Seventy-five percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school, according to a recent GLSEN report. And, tragically, one study by The Williams Institute shows that more than 50 percent of transgender young people report attempting suicide at least once in their lifetime.
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