WASHINGTON D.C., February 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Trump Administration’s Education Department told a news agency that it will no longer investigate or take action on complaints filed by transgender students who say they are being discriminated against by being told to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological gender.
For the past three weeks, BuzzFeed News called and emailed Education Department officials attempting to pinpoint the agency’s position.
Finally on Thursday, Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, responded “yes, that’s what the law says” when asked again if the Education Department holds a current position that restroom complaints from transgender students are not covered by a 1972 federal civil rights law called Title IX.
Asked for further explanation on the department’s position, Hill said Friday, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”
She added that certain types of transgender complaints may be investigated — but not bathroom complaints.
“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 said. “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.”
BuzzFeed reports that this is the “first time officials have asserted this position publicly as an interpretation of law,” adding that “no formal announcement has been made.”
Last year, the nascent Trump administration rejected guidance on transgender bathroom use issued by the Obama White House which had directed schools to allow students to use whatever bathroom they choose according to their perceived gender identity.
While a formal announcement has yet to be made, BuzzFeed News reports that an Education Department spokesperson has confirmed that the Trump Administration will carry that decision to its logical conclusion.
The news comes amid conflicting court decisions concerning the issues of transgender usage of school restrooms and locker rooms. The Obama Administration asserted that Title IX protections against sexual discrimination also applied to gender identity.
Two federal appeals courts, following the Obama Administration lead, have ruled in recent years that Title IX is ambiguous, and that the ban on discrimination “on the basis of sex” does indeed include gender identity.
Other lower courts have been divided on the issue.
Last month, a Wisconsin case which was headed for the United States Supreme Court was settled before the case could advance.
The 7th Circuit said in May 2017 that a “policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non‐conformance, which in turn violates Title IX.”
Further, the court dismissed the school’s appeal to male students’ privacy as based on “sheer conjecture and abstraction.”
In July 2016, Wisconsin high schooler Ashley Whitaker sued her school. She said she suffered from depression and anxiety and that her life was miserable – not because of her gender dysphoria, but because George Nelson Tremper High School didn’t acknowledge her as a “boy” and allow her to use the boys’ bathroom.
Rather than let the case proceed, the Kenosha Unified School District dropped its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and paid a $800,000 settlement to the young female who says she is a “boy,” citing the prohibitive cost of litigation.
The school district’s attorney Ron Stadler said that the district would likely have succeeded at the Supreme Court, but that the monetary and insurance risks weighed heavily.
The New Civil Rights Movement, an organization whose goal is to “galvanize a community of progressives to help advance civil rights for LGBT people,” complained in a statement that the Trump Administration policy change was “made secretly with no public statement or opportunity for public comment.”
“Catherine Lhamon, who led the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration, said the new school-restroom policy is legally dubious,” according to the BuzzFeed News report.
“Until now, the official position of the Department has been that Title IX protects all students and that they were evaluating how that protection applies to the issue of bathroom access,” said Lhamon. “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.”
Parents, however, who have had to fight school boards so that their daughters will not have to shower with biological boys who think they are 'girls' will likely welcome the news.