Obama rule on transgender public school restrooms draws praise, scorn

File - In this Oct. 21, 2015 file photo, a man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The Obama administration directed America’s public schools to now allow transgender students to use restrooms matching their gender identity.

If schools don’t comply, they risk losing crucial federal funding.

The new guideline, issued jointly by the departments of Education and Justice, are intended to protect trans students who may otherwise be barred from entering bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their self-identity.

Furthermore, “Staff should address transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns,” reports CNN. “Schools cannot require students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate before treating them consistent with their gender identity, the guidance states.”

Texas’ Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News that his states “will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States.”

In response to critics and concerned parents, the Obama administration didn’t give an inch.

A school’s Title IX obligation to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns. As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.

The administration’s action comes on the heels of dueling lawsuits between the Department of Justice and the state of North Carolina regarding the so-called “bathroom bill.” HB2 requires all people, including the trans community, to use the bathroom that matches the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Several states and local school districts have grappled with the best way to accommodate trans students, angering some parents in the process.

Reports went viral of a North Carolina school board member recommending students enter bathrooms armed with pepper spray, lest they encounter a menacing trans person.

Online, others used the new Obama guidelines to link all restroom sexual assaults to transgender people using their preferred facilities. It’s worth noting that there is no established correlation to trans accommodations and sex assaults.

The Obama administration’s new public school guidance is not federal law, but carries significant weight given the federal dollars attached to schools’ compliance.

Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales

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