Washington, Feb 23, 2017: US President Donald Trump’s administration revoked landmark guidance to the country’s schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former President Barack Obama.
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In a joint letter on Wednesday, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, the New York Times reported.
The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, was sent to the nation’s public schools and it did not offer any new guidance.
Instead, it said that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges, the New York Times report said.
The letter stated that the earlier directive was improperly and arbitrarily devised, “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy”.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said: “We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that his department “has a duty to enforce the law” and criticised the Obama administration’s guidance as lacking sufficient legal basis, reported ABC News.
Sessions wrote that the Department of Justice remains committed to the “proper interpretation” and and enforcement of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
Gay rights supporters made their displeasure clear after the move. Outside the White House, several hundred people protested the decision, waving rainbow flags and chanting, “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here”.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “Transgender young people face tragically high rates of discrimination and bullying, and they need a government that will stand up for them — not attack them.”
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American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) LGBT project director James Esseks said: “Revoking the guidance shows that the President’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric… School districts that recognise that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we’ll see them in court.”
The new letter scrambled the calculus for a number of lawsuits working their way through the courts, particularly the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia teenager who sued his school board for barring him from the boys’ restroom.
The case is scheduled for oral arguments before the US Supreme Court in March. Grimm said he was disheartened that the Trump administration is withdrawing Obama’s guidance which was “incredibly empowering”. (IANS)