Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) are leading a group of 40 fellow Democrats in calling on the Obama administration to make clear that discrimination against transgender students — including for bathroom use — is prohibited under federal law.
In a letter dated May 2 to Education Secretary John King, the senators seek new guidance spelling out discrimination against transgender students contravenes the prohibition on gender discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
“In the face of ongoing legislative assaults on LGBT students, and transgender students in particular, we remain concerned that the Department of Education has not yet further clarified that schools permitting discrimination against LGBT students to continue unabated risk losing their eligibility for federal funds,” the letter says. “Although the Department of Education has stated that Title IX covers gender identity discrimination, including for single-sex classrooms and sexual harassment, it has not yet provided specific guidance to schools on how these protections apply in the myriad other circumstances experienced by transgender students in schools.”
The senators make this request amid continued consternation over North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which prohibits transgender people from using the public restroom in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.
The letter cites a recent ruling from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals determining schools are required under Title IX to allow transgender students to use public facilities consistent with their gender identity. Legal observers say the ruling is a blow to House Bill 2 that renders the provision related to transgender students unenforceable.
Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, hailed the senators for seeking additional guidance from the Obama administration.
“Transgender students urgently need comprehensive guidance from the Department of Education to protect their right to go to school free from fear and discrimination,” Keisling said. “As more states and cities consider policies that would ban transgender students from school facilities or even subject them to criminal penalties, it is imperative that the Department of Education immediately make it clear that it is a violation of Title IX to prevent transgender students from living according to their gender identity. Schools want this guidance, and students and families desperately need it.”
The Washington Blade has placed a call in with the Department of Education seeking comment in response to the letter.