States Sue over Department of Education’s Transgender Equality Initiative

Ten more states sued the Obama Administration last week over a federal directive requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, joining the eleven states that had already filed suit in May.

In the directive released May 13, the Department of Justice and Department of Education cited schools’ obligation under Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs, to create a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students.

Although the administration cannot ensure compliance under force of law, the “significant guidance” of the directive suggests that the Department of Education may withdraw federal funding from schools that do not conform to the decision.

In contrast, 200 cities and counties, 18 states, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to prohibit discrimination against transgender people.

“Forcing [transgender students] to use bathrooms that run counter to our identity is incredibly damaging,” writes Hunter Schafer, a young transgender woman. She notes that transgender people “already face a disproportionate amount of violence, discrimination, and bullying, and are vastly more likely than the general population to attempt suicide.” Bathroom bills like North Carolina’s HB2 “promote false stereotypes that perpetuate these dangers.”

The Obama administration’s directive comes after a ruling in April in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit determined under Title IX that a Virginia school discriminated against a transgender male student by barring him from using the male restroom.

Of individuals who identify as transgender while in grades K-12, 78% report suffering harassment, 35% report suffering physical assault and 12% report suffering sexual violence.


U.S. District Court for the State of Nebraska, 7/8/16; U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, 5/13/16; The New York Times, 5/25/16; American Civil Liberties Union, 2016; Justia, 1989; Washington Post, 5/11/16; U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, 4/19/16; Vox, 6/30/16; Teen Vogue, 7/12/16; National Center for Transgender Equality.

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