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US gives directive to schools on transgender bathroom access

Posted May 13

— Public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity, according to an Obama administration directive issued amid a court fight between the federal government and North Carolina.

The guidance from leaders at the departments of Education and Justice says public schools are obligated to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity, even if their education records or identity documents indicate a different sex.

"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement accompanying the directive, which is being sent to school districts Friday.

In issuing the guidance, the Obama administration is wading anew into a socially divisive debate it has bluntly cast in terms of civil rights. The Justice Department on Monday sued North Carolina over House Bill 2, a bathroom access law that it said violates the rights of transgender people, a measure that Lynch likened to policies of racial segregation and efforts to deny gay couples the right to marry.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said the government's stance "changes generations of gender etiquette and privacy norms which parents, children and employees have expected in the most personal and private settings of their everyday lives." As he did Monday in announcing his administration's efforts to seek judicial support for House Bill 2, he called on Congress and the courts to stop what he calls an overreach by the Obama administration.

"Both non-discrimination and privacy are basic tenets of our great country," McCrory said in a statement. "States and local governments cannot have a myriad of different laws which cause confusion and inconsistent application. However, the executive branch of the federal government does not have the authority to be the final arbiter. We all must work together to seek answers and common sense clarification."

Read the guidance letter

The guidance does not impose any new legal requirements. But officials say it's meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government. Educators have been seeking guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.

"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," King said.

Under the guidance, schools are told that they must treat transgender students according to their chosen gender identity as soon as a parent or guardian notifies the district that that identity "differs from previous representations or records." There is no obligation for a student to present a specific medical diagnosis or identification documents that reflect his or her gender identity, and equal access must be given to transgender students even in instances when it makes others uncomfortable, according to the directive.

"As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others' discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students," the guidance says.

The administration is also releasing a separate 25-page document of questions and answers about best practices, including ways schools can make transgender students comfortable in the classroom and protect the privacy rights of all students in restrooms or locker rooms.

The move was cheered by Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian and transgender civil rights organization, which called the guidelines "groundbreaking."

"This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

The guidance comes days after the Justice Department and North Carolina filed dueling lawsuits over a new state law that says transgender people must use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. The administration has said the law violates the Civil Rights Act.

North Carolina officials were quick to condemn the directive, and they urged schools to ignore it.

"North Carolina public schools in receipt of the President's letter are reminded that there is a binding state law on the books governing bathroom policy and the President's non-binding directive is merely his attempt to push his version of a social policy on our state with no Constitutional authority to do so. It should be rejected as a matter of principle and policy," Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said in a statement.

"The last time I checked, the United States is not ruled by a king who can bypass Congress and the courts and force school-aged boys and girls to share the same bathrooms and locker rooms," state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. "This is an egregiously unconstitutional overreach of the president's authority, and North Carolina's public schools should follow state law, which protects our children’s safety and privacy."

"This is no longer a North Carolina issue, this is a national issue. We all have to wonder what other threats to common sense norms may come before the sun sets on the Obama Administration," state House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement.

110 Comments

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  • Roger Clements May 14, 2016
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    "The Republican controlled NC GA is, in theory, targeting businesses for publicly disagreeing with HB2."

    Susan, I agree with you on many points. But let us recall which businesses started this attack - Starbucks, Apple, big money entertainers like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr. Both sides have a strong offense to use a sports analogy.

    I don't use social media very often, so I am still unsure of the term 'troll'. It sounds quite derogatory. How do you define that?

  • Roger Clements May 14, 2016
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    Then, in that case, the LGBT groups and their supporters have perfected the art of social bullying to such an extent as to be more aptly called social engineering.

  • Susan Eaton May 13, 2016
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    I could not disagree more. We are indeed still all free to express our opinions and those who impose consequences when others disagrees are nothing but bullies. The Republican controlled NC GA is, in theory, targeting businesses for publicly disagreeing with HB2. And yet, those businesses continue to express their viewpoint accepting that sometimes bullies feels compelled to inflict hardship on others just for expressing a dissenting opinion. Individuals suggesting that someone should be ashamed of holding an opinion are also attempting to bully. Before asking anyone else to exhibit high standards of behavior, we each must ask that behavior of ourselves. There are no excuses that justify bad behavior and trolling. Never have been. The internet has made trolling and hiding behind fake personas an all too easy way to facilitate bad manors and behaviors.

  • Roger Clements May 13, 2016
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    I agree completely. This lame argument equating the transgender struggles with struggles of so many American blacks is not only false, but offensive. Transgenders or even gay people never had attack dogs rip into their bodies, or knocked down by water cannons or the most obscene atrocity, strung up in trees as African Americans experienced by the thousands (tens of thousands?) throughout the 20th century and before.

    Loretta Lynch is trying to say that the civil rights movement was about transgender rights. Jesse Jackson marched with MLK. If you were to ask him now if he were marching also for the rights of transgenders he would say, "Trans-what?, Say What? No my doctor told me to stay away from trans fats." Sorry folks, but the issues of the extremely few transgender people are as insignificant today as they were 50+ years ago. No amount of hyperbole will change that.

  • Roger Clements May 13, 2016
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    Susan, in a perfect world that would be possible. However, we live in a world that simply expressing a viewpoint that may not conform to the accepted and dominant politically correct norm can result in loss of income or other financial damages. We no longer live in a country where one can freely and with civility express their opinion.

    Cases in point are the IRS targeting conservative groups like Tea Party groups and Black Lives Matter and other groups denying the rights of others the right to speak, even though the speaker paid for the microphone, PA system, venue, security, etc.

    Now people making rude and childish comments just for the sake of being mean is another story. They just denigrate themselves. As the Beatles sang in Revolution,
    "But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
    You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow"

  • Susan Eaton May 13, 2016
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    It is a special form of mental illness to feel compelled to assume multiple Facebook identities to park on WRAL.com and heave insults at people like a playground bully instead of having the maturity to accept that viewpoints differ. This site should have some enforcement that people use their real name and engage in civil debate rather than use assumed Facebook personas named after their beliefs and idols to troll and attack.

  • Mark Cahall May 13, 2016
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    It's okay Paul, I don't expect logical thinking from someone who thinks a man magically becomes a women by wishing it to be so.

    And.. I guess when it was time to put up or shut up, Roberta decided that to require all women to undress and shower with any man that says he's woman isn't such a good idea after all.

    Roberta, it's quite different, isn't it, when it's you wearing those shoes.

  • Mark Cahall May 13, 2016
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    You and others should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves for trying to equate people being enslaved

    with people who are affected by a mental condition that causes them to be detached from reality.

    Quit trying to legitimize a completely wacky position by visually connecting it to historical markers of freedom.

    You're doing an immeasurable disservice to those who fought and died for real human rights.

  • Paul Hayeze May 13, 2016
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    Mark Cahall: "Dude, you're as delusional as a man who thinks he's a woman" or someone who thinks he is the AntiSatan, Jim Smith, Demute...The list goes on....

  • Jim Smith May 13, 2016
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    Lawsuits and talks about the $4.8 billion in funding loss

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-north-carolina-lgtb-idUSKCN0Y22LX

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