In what is being seen to many as a renege of a campaign trail promise, President Donald Trump withdrew protections for transgender students that President Barack Obama had put in place. The Obama protection order allowed for transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms and other facilities that corresponded to their gender identity.
“Supports for transgender students in K-12 schools change and save lives, and hurt no one,” said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard in a statement released immediately after the decision. She concluded, “President Trump’s reversal of federal guidance affirming Title IX protections in schools undermines the settled expectations and protections afforded by federal law, hurts transgender students and impedes the progress we have made creating safer and more inclusive learning environments for all.”
“While the Trump administration may abandon transgender students, GLSEN won’t,” said Byard in a statement. During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to leave protections for the LGBT community alone.
The anti-transgender decision was applauded by many conservatives who felt Obama’s order was too restrictive and that legislation should be left up to individual states, not the federal government. At the same time, civil rights groups and supporters of the LGBT community decried that the decision is being seen as an appeasement for the religious right.
Obama’s original order went into place May of 2016, with the departments of Education and Justice issuing a joint directive to schools receiving federal funding to let transgender students use the facilities corresponding with their gender identity. It was based on the administration’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, to include gender identity. In the Trump administration’s decision, again a joint missive was sent out from the departments of Education and Justice, rescinding the guidance originally given schools “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved”, said the letter. No alternative or replacement solution was provided.
“As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level,” the White House said in a statement. “The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.”
Wednesday’s decision follows the Department of Justice’s recent withdrawal from a court challenge that questioned the Obama protection. The recent move has many critics deriding the decision. They are saying it is anti-LGBT sentiment from two people, Trump and the new Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. According to an unnamed White House source, DeVos was originally opposed to this move, departing from Trump’s wishes. After a meeting with Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has a long history of being staunchly anti-LGBT, DeVos did an abrupt about-face and got onboard with the decision.
“This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement.