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Dept. of Education Won’t Investigate Transgender Students’ Bathroom Complaints

The Department of Education did not issue any new official Title IX guidance relating to its interpretation of transgender students’ rights.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education reportedly said government officials will no longer be taking action after transgender students file complaints alleging their schools’ bathroom policies discriminate against them.

The decision follows a year in which department officials have been reviewing the transgender bathroom issue and slowly making their divergence from the Obama administration’s policy more clear.

In February of last year, the Trump administration withdrew Obama-era guidance stating that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on not only their sex but also their gender identity. That had allowed transgender students to use the school bathrooms that matched their gender identity.

Since then, Education Department officials have said it is “permissible” for the Office for Civil Rights to dismiss transgender students’ Title IX complaints regarding their school’s bathroom policy. The most recent announcement, made by department spokesperson Liz Hill to BuzzFeed News on Feb. 8., clarifies the department’s position.

“Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity,” Hill said.

Although the Department of Education has made no official announcements on the decision yet, Hill’s statement aligns with department officials’ previous statements on transgender student rights.

“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,” Hill explained to BuzzFeed News. “In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”

The announcement was met with criticism by many transgender advocacy organizations and former government officials. Catherine Lhamon, who served as the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education under the Obama administration, said the move is a major setback for transgender rights.

“This new categorical bar of civil rights protection for transgender children required to attend schools every day ignores the text of the law, courts’ interpretation of the law, the stated position of the Department to date, and human decency,” Lhamon said.

A group of more than 700 parents of transgender students had already accused Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of failing to protect their children last week.

The announcement is just the latest change in transgender bathroom policy for school districts across the country to understand. Previous court rulings have forced districts to pay settlements for discrimination based on gender identity.

About the Author

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Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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