The Obama administration issued guidance on Friday directing schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
A joint letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice was sent to educators with information “to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.”
The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life. It also comes on the heels of the administration’s legal standoff with North Carolina over transgender rights.
“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. “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.”
The directive is not law but the message was clear: Fall in line or face loss of federal funding.
Justice and Education Department officials have repeatedly made clear that under their interpretation of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.
“The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX,” the administration said Thursday.
“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus, said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “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.”