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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 16, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 07
US Department of Education won't investigate Trans discrimination complaints
Section One
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US Department of Education won't investigate Trans discrimination complaints

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Department of Education will no longer investigate complaints from Transgender students who have been denied access to restrooms that correspond to their gender, the department said in an email to a BuzzFeed News reporter.

BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden wrote in his February 12 column that the department replied to an inquiry on February 8, saying its position was that that Title IX - a federal civil rights law - did not protect Transgender students.

The Obama administration ruled that Title IX's prohibition on sex discrimination also covered gender identity, and on that basis it supported Trans students' legal complaints against school districts that restricted their access to gender-appropriate facilities.

As with other federal policies, things changed when Trump was inaugurated.

In February 2017, the Trump administration said in a memo that it would 'consider the legal issues involved' in Title IX complaints, but last June, the Department of Education issued another memo saying it was 'permissible' for its civil rights division to dismiss a Trans student's restroom case.

Trump officials have still not formally stated their intention to reject all restroom-related complaints from Trans students, but their February 8 email is the most comprehensive statement to date of their intentions.

According to Holden, the email came as a result of three weeks' worth of attempts to get clarification from the Trump Department of Education on its legal interpretation of Title IX.

Finally on February 8, department spokesperson Liz Hill replied 'Yes, that's what the law says' when asked if the Education Department believes that restroom-related discrimination complaints from Transgender students are not covered by Title IX.

Asked for further explanation of the department's position, Hill wrote definitively on February 9 that 'Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.'

According to Holden, she added that some Transgender discrimination complaints may be investigated, but not bathroom complaints.

'Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX,' Hill said.

'In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.'

The Trump administration's analysis of Title IX is dubious and contradicts relevant case law, according to Catherine Lhamon, who led the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration.

'Until now, the official position of the Department has been that Title IX protects all students and that they were evaluating how that protection applies to the issue of bathroom access,' she said in an email to BuzzFeed News.

'This new categorical bar of civil rights protection for transgender children required to attend schools every day ignores the text of the law, courts' interpretation of the law, the stated position of the Department to date, and human decency.'

The Education Department's reading of Title IX also conflicts with rulings by two federal circuit courts, which held that Title IX guarantees Transgender students' access to restrooms matching their gender identity.

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