The Trump administration removed federal protections for transgender students Wednesday evening, effectively rolling back Obama administration legal guidelines that allowed students in public schools to use the bathroom and locker room aligned with their chosen gender, not their sex at birth. The Trump administration cited states’ rights as the primary motivation for the change and kicked the contentious issue back to individual states and local school districts to draw up bathroom policies for transgender students that do not violate federal anti-discrimination law.
“Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court that it was ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years that said prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws,” the Washington Post reports.
The two-page ‘dear colleague’ letter included in a Supreme Court filing late Wednesday does not offer schools any new guidance, instead saying that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process and sowed confusion and legal challenges. The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law going forward.
“Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. “The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
“The question of how to address bathroom access, which the Obama White House clarified last year, had opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general,” the New York Times reports. “The new policy overruled the advice of President Trump’s education secretary and placed his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind.”