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Protesters rallied in front of the White House last February after the Education Department rescinded Obama-era guidance urging schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/Flickr/cc)

LGBTQ Groups Slam Trump Education Dept for Refusing to Protect Rights of Transgender Students

Advocates call of individual schools and districts to protect transgender students as Office of Civil Rights claims it's not responsible for discrimination cases

Julia Conley

LGBTQ advocacy groups are saying that the Trump administration's dismissal of discrimination cases filed by transgender students in recent months flies in the face of several court cases—not just Obama-era guidance that the administration revoked.

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has thrown out at least three complaints by students who say their schools have not allowed them to use restrooms and play on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, saying that matters of discrimination against transgender students do not fall under the office's purview.

Weeks after President Donald Trump's inauguration, the DOE rescinded the Obama administration's 2016 directive advising schools to allow students to use the facilities that matched their identities. The department argued that the issue should be handled at the local level.

But the push to protect transgender students predates the Obama administration, advocates have noted, with a number of federal court cases dating back to at least 1997 challenging discrimination against transgender Americans.

"I think what's important to note is it's not that the Obama administration came out of the blue to say Title IX now covers transgender students," Nathan Smith, director of public policy of GLSEN told the Huffington Post. "There's a wave of court cases from district and circuit courts that have upheld that understanding."

As the DOE has dismissed discrimination cases, the Office of Civil Rights has reportedly received 40 percent fewer complaints from transgender students over the past year.

"This is not surprising, but it does seem to me consistent with the idea that students who are facing discrimination, who really are suffering in their ability to get an education, don't believe that OCR will protect them," Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Huffington Post.

Responding to reports of the DOE's dismissal of the cases, the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights posted on its Twitter account, "The administration continues to send a deeply troubling message to students that they will not stand up for their civil rights."

The group also called on "individual schools and districts to treat students consistent with their gender identity" as the federal government declines to extend that treatment.

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