Friday, May 13, 2016

Obama threatens to deny federal aid to schools refusing transgender students bathroom choice

The Obama administration sent a letter to public schools today telling them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, or risk losing federal funds. The letter, sent jointly by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, says "under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status." (Getty Images by Mark Ralston: Signs outside a restroom at Santee High School in Los Angeles)

The letter "does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid," , Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Matt Apuzzo report for The New York Times. "The move is certain to draw fresh criticism, particularly from Republicans, that the federal government is wading into local matters and imposing its own values on communities across the country that may not agree. It represents the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people."

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the Lone Star state doesn't plan to comply, telling Noelle Walker of KXAS-TV or NBCDFW, "This will be the beginning of the end of the public school system as we know it... President Obama, in the dark of the night—without consulting Congress, without consulting educators, without consulting parents—decides to issue an executive order, like this superintendent, forcing transgender policies on schools and on parents who clearly don't want it." Patrick told other reporters that Texas, which gets $10 billion from the federal government for education, mostly for school meals, will find as much as money as possible to make up the loss of federal money. (Officially sanctioned prayer was taken out of schools, but not voluntary prayer.)

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in the letter: “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.”

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