The US Department of Education (ED) recently granted George Fox University (GFU) a religious exemption from Title IX to, effectively granting the institution permission to discriminate against transgender student Jayce M. while he was pushing the administration to assign him to a male dormitory on campus.
While Jayce says he’s received support from the school’s community and from his family and friends, GFU administrators are not willing to recognize or accommodate his gender identity. The school recently announced plans to require dorm placements to be determined by what they call a student’s “biological sex at birth,” and the school’s administration applied for the exemption secretly while Jayce and the administration were supposedly negotiating amicably.
“I’m shocked and disappointed that the federal government has given George Fox permission to discriminate against me and is allowing it to do so with federal funds,” Jayce said. “But I’m not giving up. I deserve to be treated like the other men on campus.”
Paul Southwick, Jayce’s lawyer, filed a Title IX complaint against the university in April of this year after several failed attempts to find a solution directly with the school’s administrators. In May, the ED Office for Civil Rights announced that Title IX prohibited discrimination against transgender students and declared that schools had to provide equal access to all programs and facilities for transgender students in accordance with their gender identity. Although religious exemptions like the one granted to GFU normally take years to get, it took only months for their requested exemption to be approved.
“GFU requested this exemption from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) a mere three days before denying Jayce’s final appeal to the university and a mere four days before Jayce filed his complaint with the ED,” Southwick said. “The ED did all of this without telling us anything about the exemption request, despite my repeated calls and emails for information and status updates. After I received their letter, a representative from ED told me he was ‘not authorized’ to discuss the religious exemption with me. Normally, the ED decides whether to investigate a complaint within 30 days. In Jayce’s case, they made us wait about 90 days, all without telling us the real reason they were making us wait.”
Jayce will appeal the Department’s ruling. His mother has also set up a Change.Org petition pushing GFU to accommodate his housing request, which has thus far garnered more then 20,000 signatures. “I want Jayce to be safe and to feel included in the campus community as he continues his education at George Fox,” his mother wrote on Change, “and I want Jayce to be allowed to live in on-campus housing with his male friends.”
Media Resources: Autostraddle 7/12/14; PQ Monthly 7/11/14, 4/4/14; Feminist Newswire 5/2/14; Change