A joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice went to schools Friday with guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment,” the Obama administration said Thursday.
The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff
between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.
“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.”
The letter does not carry the force of law but the message was clear: Fall in line or face loss of federal funding.
Justice and Education Department officials have repeatedly made clear that under their interpretation of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.
“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.
LGBT groups praised the announcement, calling it a validation of transgender rights and a repudiation of so-called “bathroom bills” that ban people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.
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