On Wednesday night, the Trump administration withdrew regulations protecting transgender students in public schools that allowed them to use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.
In a new “Dear Colleague” letter, the education and justice departments rescinded guidance on those protections enacted by the Obama administration, in order to “further and more completely consider the legal issues involved,” the letter states. Passed in May, the former guidelines required gender identity to be protected under Obama’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination.
The letter also expresses that states and local school districts should be involved in “establishing educational policy,” following President Donald Trump‘s belief that trans bathroom policy should be decided by the states. But according to the new guidance, trans students are not fully without protections.
“All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear all claims of discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students and to encourage civility in our classrooms,” the letter reads.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos allegedly disagreed with the initial draft of the guidance withdrawal and was concerned about the potential harm rescinding the protection could cause trans students, pitting herself against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. DeVos released her own statement following the “Dear Colleague” letter.
“This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate,” DeVos’s statement reads, according to CNN. “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.”