The Obama administration is acting to bring a decisive end to the row over transgender people using bathrooms, in a letter to every public school in the US.
A wave of Republican-backed ‘bathroom bills’ have spread across the US aimed at rolling back LGBT rights protections – ostensibly to stop transgender people from using their preferred bathroom.
The anti-trans movement has also spread into schools – with one school board member suggesting kids be allowed pepper spray to tackle any transgender people they find in the ‘wrong’ bathroom.
Amid a tangle of lawsuits over North Carolina’s HB2, the federal government will act this week by writing to every school in the nation on the issue.
The letter, signed by Justice and Education officials, is set to go out later today – and advises educators to take steps to ensure trans students are catered for and not discriminated against.
The letter affirms: “When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity.”
It also stipulates that schools can’t require trans people to undergo medical treatment before being allowed to use their preferred bathroom.
The letter says: “There is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.”
Catherine E. Lhamon of the Department of Education said: “This guidance answers questions schools have been asking, with a goal to ensure that all students are treated equally consistent with their gender identity.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration’s position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity.
“This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools.”
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: “Transgender youth are already at heightened risk of experiencing violence, bullying, and harassment, and North Carolina’s action exacerbates those risks by creating a hostile environment in one of the places they should feel the safest.
“There is an immediate and overwhelming need to recognize the rights transgender students have under federal law.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave a landmark speech on trans rights this month amid the ‘bathroom bill’ squabble.