WASHINGTON – In a move that shall affect all public schools and almost all universities and colleges that receive federal funds; the Obama administration revealed its will to make amendments that respect transgender rights.
As top administration officials stated, Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, schools are to provide these students with access to appropriate facilities including, but not limited to, bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity, not birth one.
Noting that schools that won’t abide by these instructions will be at risk of losing their federal funds aids.
The plan provoked a direct backlash from Republican officials across the country, as for Elizabeth Schultz, an outspoken conservative on the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia, the latter said the guidance could infringe on some students’ religious convictions.
As a majority, state and local officials have reversed course when threatened to lose federal funds over their treatment of transgender students. For instance, the Education Department reached a settlement, in 2013, with the school district of Arcadia in California on a dispute over whether the district violated Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding, by obliging student who transitioned to being male to change clothes and use the bathroom in the nurse’s office.
Further in December, the school district in Palatine allowed a transgender girl to use the girls’ locker room after the Education Department threatened to withhold $6 million in federal funds.
Jeremy Majeski, Komensky Elementary School’s principal, whose school is less than an hour from Palatine said there were several decisions that were made in his district on how to treat transgender students, but school districts aren’t experts in gender identity, and so they need expert help. “To be able to lean on people who have done this before, it’s important.”
The National Association of Secondary School Principals expressed its content that the Education Department was “taking a stand” on the issue. “The principal’s most important role is to create a climate and culture in which each student feels valued,” said Michael Allison, the association’s president. “There are countless reasons we could declare it impractical to address the needs of transgender students. None of those obstacles excuse us from doing the right thing.”