Feb. 22 (UPI) — President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday announced the federal government has rolled back former President Barack Obama’s guidelines allowing transgender students to use the bathroom with which they are most comfortable.
The Departments of Justice and Education notified the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday that it was instructing American schools to disregard the Obama administration directive.
“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,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate. At my direction, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
Obama’s guidelines, issued last May, instructed schools nationwide to permit students to choose the bathroom they prefer without restriction. The guidelines came about after North Carolina passed a law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex they were born.
The Obama administration cited Title IX of federal law that guarantees equality in education.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer hinted at the action on Tuesday by suggesting Trump wants to allow individual states the legal authority to determine their policies on public restroom use.
“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” DeVos said Wednesday. “Schools, communities, and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.
“As Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.”
Following Obama’s guidance, Texas and 12 other states filed a lawsuit. A judge later temporarily blocked Obama’s directive. The Obama administration then requested the block only apply to the 13 states that filed a lawsuit.
Earlier this month, Trump’s administration has asked to withdraw a motion filed by Obama over the issue. In a court filing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice requested to withdraw Obama’s motion filed last year that asked a judge to scale back a temporary injunction that blocked the Obama administration’s guidance over transgender bathroom use.
“Washington, D.C., Is an inclusive city. We will continue to protect and support inclusive policies for our LGBTQIA students,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter.
Civil rights groups, though, have said Trump can do only so much against transgender rights.
“Trump’s action sends a terrible message to transgender students. But these students should know the law is on their side,” the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.
“President Trump’s revocation of the guidance, however, does NOT undo legal protections for transgender students.”