Today, The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a joint guidance to help provide educators the information they need to provide all students, including transgender students, a school environment that is safe and welcoming. The guidance is not legally binding but it makes clear that the Obama administration sees anti-transgender rules, regulations, and laws in violation of federal law including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Here are some of the comments from members of the Obama administration connected to this historic letter:
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.:
No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus. This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly – that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch:
There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex. 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. I look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Education – and with schools across the country – to create classroom environments that are safe, nurturing, and inclusive for all of our young people.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta (head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division):
Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow. And we know that teachers and administrators care deeply about all of their students and want them to succeed in school and life. Our guidance sends a clear message to transgender students across the country: here in America, you are safe, you are protected and you belong – just as you are. We look forward to working with school officials to make the promise of equal opportunity a reality for all of our children
The blowback from this is likely to be vigorous. However, it is misplaced. Media Matters reports that schools where measures to protect transgender students have had exactly ZERO problems:
The collective experience of 17 U.S. school districts has shattered the right-wing myth that says prohibiting discrimination against transgender students causes confusion and inappropriate behavior. Years after implementing their own anti-discrimination policies, none of the schools have experienced any problems.
Here in Michigan, a similar guidance is being proposed and the main proponent of its creation, State Board of Education Chair John Austin has been repeatedly attacked for it.
Stephanie White, Executive Director of Equality Michigan, spells out more of the impacts in Michigan:
Today’s action will also have a significant impact on the anti-trans bathroom inspection bill that has been proposed here in Michigan by State Senator Tom Casperson. Today’s federal guidance underscores what Equality Michigan has been saying from day one: Casperson’s proposal violates Title IX and would endanger transgender students across Michigan.
As you’ve heard from us in recent days, while Casperson has yet to introduce his bill, opposition has been mounting rapidly and includes: over 150 faith leaders, parents, leading Michigan businesses, including Kellogg, Herman Miller, Dow, and Whirlpool, the National Association of Social Workers – Michigan, Michigan Association of School Social Workers, Mental Health Association in Michigan, Michigan School Health Coordinators Association, Association for Children’s Mental Health, and many others.
Frankly, this growing chorus of opposition comes as no surprise at a time when both everyday Michiganders and a growing majority of reasonable policymakers in Lansing realize the value of building a state that is welcoming to all and that values both diversity and inclusion. In Michigan and across the United States anti-LGBT bills, like Casperson’s, have become the pet project of extremists, not the stuff of serious leaders who are working to move our state and country forward.
From every corner of our state, Michiganders have spoken out strongly in opposition to Senator Casperson’s bathroom inspection bill. Today’s action by the Obama administration makes it crystal clear that Senator Casperson’s bill would put Michigan on a collision course with federal civil rights authorities and force our schools into the impossible position of having to choose between complying with the Casperson bathroom policing law or with their legal obligations under Title IX. In North Carolina, where a similar bill was passed into law, a federal civil rights lawsuit has already been filed against the state by the U.S. Department of Justice. That’s the last thing Michigan needs.
While some presidents phone in the last year of their presidencies, it’s clear that President Obama has not intention of doing that. So grab some popcorn and get ready for the anti-LGBTQ, bigoted conservatives’ heads to explode. And, while you’re at it, celebrate. This is truly a BFD.
Also, if you haven’t already, watch this short speech by AG Lynch on this topic (and bring yer hankies, it’s powerful and profound):