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Trump Administration rolls back transgender students access to school restrooms

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| Washington – The U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education issued a joint memo yesterday stating that they will no longer support the Obama administration’s stance on transgender students and school restrooms.

In May 2016, the Obama administration set out legal guidelines that encouraged schools to allow students to use the restrooms of chosen gender, not their sex at birth. The Obama administration stipulated that the Education Amendments Act of 1972 applies to transgender students. Specifically, Title IX, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” for any education program receiving federal funds.

The new memo states that the Obama administration did not “explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX,” and that the Obama Administration’s “interpretation has given rise to significant litigation regarding school restrooms and locker rooms.”

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The memo goes on to say that there “must be due regard for the primary role of states and local school districts in establishing educational policy,” when schools set rules for the 150,000 transgender Americans aged 13 to 17.

The departments issued the memo after a reported dispute between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Sessions had backed the withdrawal, along with religious conservatives that had opposed the Obama guidelines. DeVos has since said that the guidelines protecting transgender students under the Obama administration were an example of “overreach,” and that “as Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.”

President Trump supported Sessions in agreeing to the roll back.

The memo concludes that, “withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment. AJI schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear all claims of discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students and to encourage civility in our classrooms.”

In a written statement, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund wrote, “The withdrawal of this guidance is cruel and unacceptable. The information vacuum it creates leaves thousands of children vulnerable to harassment and stifles their ability to participate fully in their school environments. While administrators and school boards try to get basic information, they will likely be subjected to anti-transgender rhetoric designed to stoke fear.”

At a press conference today, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that President Trump has a “big heart,” “but he also believes that it’s not a federal government issue. It’s an issue left to the states.”

Since the announcement, opposition views on the roll back have been shared extensively on social media.

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