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The Trump Administration Abandons Its Obligations to Trans Students

The ACLU will continue to fight — including in court — for transgender students’ right to an education free from discrimination.

"According to the Department of Education, claims of discrimination against transgender students are now outside of its jurisdiction." (Photo: Reuters)

"According to the Department of Education, claims of discrimination against transgender students are now outside of its jurisdiction." (Photo: Reuters)

The Trump Administration didn’t wait long to deliver its first blow to equality for transgender communities in 2017.

Last February, the administration withdrew guidance issued by the Departments of Education and Justice in 2016 that helped public schools implement Title IX, the 45-year-old federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education to make schools safer and more just for transgender students. Now, according to new reporting by the Huffington Post, the Trump administration is doubling down on exclusion and bigotry, with the Department of Education dismissing complaints of discrimination brought by transgender students.

The Huffington Post reports that it uncovered at least three cases of alleged anti-transgender discrimination that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights dismissed over the past few months. In one case in Texas, a transgender student accused his high school of not allowing him to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity or room with his teammates when they traveled overnight. In response to his complaint, the department’s Office for Civil Rights cited the administration’s rescission of the Obama guidance for its dismissal of the teenager’s complaint.

There’s a good reason the Trump Department dismantled the guidance. When it was issued, the guidance provided important clarity to public schools across the country on the steps they needed to take to ensure that they were respecting the civil rights of their transgender students, such as using the appropriate pronouns when addressing a transgender student. When the Trump administration withdrew the guidance, it sowed confusion by removing that clarity.

However, it did not — nor could it — remove the underlying legal requirements on school districts. Courts have repeatedly concluded that federal civil rights laws like Title IX protect transgender students against discrimination, including in the context of restroom and locker room use. The exact kind of cases that the department’s Office for Civil Rights is now killing.

According to the Department of Education, claims of discrimination against transgender students are now outside of its jurisdiction. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Trump administration is simply choosing to abandon their obligation under federal law. With this shameful inaction, the Trump administration is attempting to write transgender students out of the protections of Title IX.

The Trump administration may abdicate its responsibility to transgender students, but the ACLU will not. Just because the Department of Education may choose not to uphold the law, it doesn’t mean the law has changed. The ACLU will continue to fight — including in court — for transgender students’ right to an education free from discrimination.

If you or a trans student you know has suffered discrimination at school, contact the ACLU.

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Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson is a Legislative Representative at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office.

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