Equity & Diversity

LGBT Rights Group Sues Trump Admin. for Records on Transgender Policy Shift

By Evie Blad — August 23, 2017 2 min read
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A prominent LGBT legal group has sued the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice for records related to the agencies’ decision to withdraw federal guidance on the rights of transgender students in public schools.

Lambda Legal filed its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Tuesday, seeking all records and correspondence related to the policy shift and its implementation. The federal agencies have not yet provided those documents after the organization made a formal open records request in March, the suit says.

The Trevor Project and National Center for Transgender Equality have also filed open records requests about the guidance and civil rights enforcement for transgender students.

The original guidance—issued by the Obama administration—asserted that Title IX, the federal gender non-discrimination law, guarantees the rights of transgender students to have access the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, even if it differs from their sex at birth. The guidance also directed schools to respect transgender students’ pronoun choices, to protect their confidentiality, and to respond to bullying based on gender identity.

The Trump administration rescinded that guidance in February, leaving it to schools to interpret federal law. The U.S. Department of Education later directed its civil rights investigators to find ways to address transgender students’ concerns of harassment and bullying, while giving them freedom to bypass complaints about access to facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

Advocates for transgender students say ending the Obama-era guidance removed a layer of uniformity and certainty for transgender students around the country. Those groups maintain that Title IX applies to transgender students, regardless of federal guidance, and they have committed to making their case in court.

Trump administration officials and conservative groups say rescinding the guidance returned those decisions to state and local policy makers.

“Defendants’ rescission of the Title IX Transgender Guidance Materials leaves these [transgender] children even more vulnerable to abuse and discrimination in their schools,” Lambda Legal’s lawsuit says. “It sends the troubling signal that Defendants will not follow through on their responsibility to enforce Title IX for transgender children. It sends the false message that schools may not be obligated under Title IX to respect and protect their transgender students, including when it comes to access to sex-segregated facilities consistent with students’ gender identities.”

Here’s a quick video Education Week made to explain the legal landscape for transgender students.

Related reading on transgender students:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.