WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration will revoke federal guidelines telling public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity, a government official said Wednesday.
The decision, not yet announced, would be a reversal of an Obama-era directive issued in May requiring public schools to grant bathroom access even if the student’s chosen gender identity isn’t the same as what’s in the student’s record. That guidance will be rescinded, though anti-bullying safeguards will not be affected by the change, a government official with direct knowledge of the Trump administration’s plans told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans and did so on condition of anonymity.
Although the guidance carried no force of law, transgender rights advocates say it was necessary to protect students from discrimination. Opponents argued it was overreach.
President Donald Trump believes the issue is for states to decide without the involvement of the federal government, the White House said.
The Obama administration’s guidance was based on its determination that Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and activities, also applies to gender identity.
It was not legally binding but sent a warning that schools could lose funding if they did not comply with the administration’s interpretation of the law.
Republicans immediately pushed back, arguing it was an example of federal government overreach and the Obama administration meddling in local matters. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick equated it to “blackmail” and said at the time that the state was ready to forfeit federal education money rather than comply with the guidance.
A federal judge in Texas put a temporary hold on the Obama-guidance in August after 13 states sued the administration over the requirements.
The change in position was first reported by The Washington Post. The reversal would be a major setback for transgender rights, which had been urging Trump to keep the safeguards in place. Advocates said federal law will still prohibit discrimination against students based on their gender or sexual orientation. Still, they said, rescinding those directives puts children in harm’s way.
Conservative activists hailed the plans to rescind the guidelines, saying those directives were illegal and that they violated the rights of fixed gender students, especially girls who did not feel safe changing or using the restroom next to anatomical males.
Legal experts said the change in position could impact pending court cases involving the federal sex discrimination law, including a case before set to be heard by the Supreme Court in March, involving a transgender teen who was denied bathroom access in Virginia.
The justices could decide not to hear the case and direct lower courts to decide that issue.
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