Trump Administration Rolls Back Protections for Trans Students

The Trump administration on Wednesday effectively redacted Obama administration guidelines for schools to protect transgender students. The public outcry by LGBTQ advocates and allies was loud and instantaneous.

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Yesterday, the Trump Administration despicably rescinded protective guidance for transgender students. 

Under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education revoked the Obama Administration’s guidance detailing schools’ obligations to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. While students are still entitled to the legal protections guaranteed by Title IX, yesterday’s action obfuscates schools’ obligations to transgender youth—who face disproportionately high rates of bullying, harassment and discrimination—and sent a dangerous message that the current administration will not enforce inclusive policies or stand up for them at school. 

HRC President Chad Griffin called the rollback a “blind and cruel attack on young children”:

“Transgender students simply want to go to school in the morning without fear of discrimination or harassment. The consequences of this decision will no doubt be heartbreaking. This isn’t a ‘states rights’ issue, it’s a civil rights issue. Children deserve protection from bullying no matter what state they live in. Period.” 

In 2016, the Departments of Justice and Education issued comprehensive guidance to ensure that transgender students were being treated fairly and with dignity in public and federally funded schools. This included having equal access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with their gender identity, honoring a student’s name and personal pronouns, and respecting a student’s privacy regarding their transgender status .  Thirteen anti-equality state attorneys general, led by the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed suit challenging the guidance. After a Texas federal judge issued a nationwide hold on enforcement of the guidance, the Obama Administration responded by requesting the court limit the hold to the 13 states filing suit.

A little more than a week ago, just 48 hours after Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General and a day after being sworn in, the Department of Justice moved to eliminate the Obama Administration’s challenge to a nationwide injunction against enforcement of the guidance, allowing the nationwide hold to continue. Yesterday, the DOJ propelled this move into action, putting countless transgender students at risk. Transgender students facing discrimination can still file suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—but the Trump administration’s heartless, tone-deaf redaction of trans students’ protections signals that it will take further backwards steps to undermine LGBTQ equality.

Transgender youth face significant discrimination and bullying in our nation’s schools, with devastating impact. 75 percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school, according to a recent GLSEN report. And, tragically, nearly 50 percent of transgender people report attempting suicide — a figure that is further elevated among people who experience rejection, discrimination or violence at school or at home.

Transgender youth have also been increasingly targeted by hateful state legislation. Last year, North Carolina adopted the infamous HB2, a law requiring discrimination against transgender people, including in public schools. But North Carolina wasn’t alone; in total, 44 anti-transgender laws were introduced at the state level in 2016. This year, several states, including Texas, are currently considering similar bills.

Tech giant Apple became one of the first businesses to publicly speak out on Trump’s actions yesterday, saying, “We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals.” Education leaders were also quick to speak out: The American Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers issued statements calling for the administration to protect transgender students. (Note: the original guidance was requested by teachers and school administrators.) 

Last night, HRC rallied with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and hundreds of other advocates and parents of transgender children outside of the White House to call out President Donald Trump for his actions. Gavin Grimm—the plaintiff in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.—spoke at the rally, as well as HRC President Chad Griffin, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, JR Ford—a member of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, and Catherine Lhamon—former assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education and co-author of the guidance. Watch the livestream here