Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor
The Trump administration has rescinded the protections for transgender students that the Obama administration put in place last year. These protections had allowed transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities. It provided guidance to school communities on how to protect transgender students, outlining the duty of schools to abide by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination by sex for schools receiving federal funds.
The Obama administration said that under Title IX, “a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.” Obama officials decided that demanding that transgender students use facilities that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates would be a violation of that law.
The rollback of these protections was done under the pretext of a lack of federal jurisdiction in this area. In a joint letter, the Justice Department and the Department of Education rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. As White House spokesman Sean Spicer explained, the current administration believes that this issue is not “something that the federal government should be involved in, as this is a states’ rights issue.”
This incredible statement exposes the Trump administration’s lack of understanding about the necessity for federal intervention to prohibit sex discrimination in education. Taking away guidance for states and school districts prevents schools from guarding the civil rights of their students and puts many children at risk of harm. With this action, the federal government is neglecting their responsibility to ensure the law’s fair application and protect the rights of individuals regardless of what part of the United States they live or go to school in.
Although the Trump administration asserts that the Obama administration’s guidance was made without “due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing education policy,” the ongoing public dialogue concerning transgender students’ issues proves this to be patently untrue.
What is especially strange regarding the Trump administration’s decision is that, a short time ago, President Trump himself appeared to be able to look past the panic, hysteria and fear-mongering that has been directed at transgender people. In the past, Trump demonstrated support for transgender people to “use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate” and said that Caitlyn Jenner could use whichever bathroom she wanted at Trump Tower.
However, Trump has now appeared to have reversed his opinion on the issue of transgender rights. He even went as far as to override Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ objections to the rollback of student protections. DeVos has made it clear that she considers it a moral obligation for every school in America to protect students of all gender identities from discrimination, bullying and harassment.
Trump’s decision to revoke guidance for school districts is reprehensible because it will impose needless distress and uncertainty regarding the protection of the rights of transgender students, and may add to the harassment and bullying that many of these students are already subjected to. Instead of creating legislation and guidelines to help those who are most vulnerable, the Trump administration has decided to leave transgender students to battle for their rights alone.