White House overturns Obama-era protections for transgender students

WASHINGTON DC, USA – The White House on Wednesday, February 22, overturns protections for transgender students that required public schools to allow youths to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching the gender with which they identify.

The justice and education departments said in a joint statement that they "withdrew guidance for educational institutions, issued in 2015 and 2016, that took the position that the prohibitions in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and implementing regulations against discrimination on the basis of sex require access to sex-segregated facilities on the basis of gender identity rather than biological sex."

By lifting federal guidelines issued by the Obama administration, the Trump administration is leaving it up to states and school districts to decide whether students should have access to bathrooms that do not reflect their biological sex.

"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.

"There is no immediate impact to students," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a separate statement.

DeVos said that protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, as a "key priority" for her department and for every school in the country.

"We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying, and harassment," her statement added.

State-level opposition

At present, more than a dozen Republican-controlled states, bitterly opposed to the federal guidelines issued under president Barack Obama, are challenging the US government in court.

Some conservatives see the directive from Washington as improper interference in local school affairs and an abuse of executive power.

The Supreme Court case, set to be heard next month, involves 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, who was born a female but identifies as a male. He filed suit to be allowed to use the boys' bathroom at his high school in Gloucester County, Virginia.

One of the highest-profile cases this session, it is likely to be heard by the conservative Neil Gorsuch – President Donald Trump's pick for a vacancy on the Supreme Court – if he is confirmed.

Should the case be heard before Gorsuch or another ninth and final justice is installed, the court could deadlock, as it is currently evenly divided between 4 conservative and 4 liberal-leaning justices.

A tie would keep the lower court ruling intact and set no new legal precedent.

Many opponents of the Obama administration's position – who point to both their religious values and questions of security and privacy – rally behind the slogan "No men in women's bathrooms." – with reports from Agence Frnace-Presse / Rappler.com