The Obama administration is defending guidance it sent to public schools across the country stating transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, saying it contains “practical suggestions.”
The Education and Justice departments on Friday sent the guidance to school administrators in the midst of an ongoing legal battle with North Carolina over its controversial law prohibiting transgender individuals from using the bathroom of the gender they prefer.
The federal government and North Carolina government are suing each other over the state’s law.
The guidance says that the departments interpret existing laws as requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with the gender with which they identify.
Right-wing media outlets and personalities panned the move, calling it “tyranny” and claiming the Obama administration is giving into a “fringe movement.”
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Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the White House was aware of the Education Department’s deliberations prior to the guidance release. He portrayed the internal workings asEducation leading the effort because it was the agency’s responsibility.
He also described the guidance as merely giving “advice” and “suggestions” to local school administrators across the country, adding it doesn’t add requirements to existing laws. The guidance does not issue any new mandate that would “require any students to use facilities when schools make other arrangements.”
The Education and Justice departments noted in the letter that they have “received an increasing number of questions from parents, teachers, principals, and school superintendents about civil rights protections for transgender.”
The White House believes the vast majority of public schools across the country will abide by the guidance, noting it has been in the works for several years.
The letter points to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, saying it “prohibit[s] sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.” The departments also describe their Title IX reading as requiring schools to honor notifications by a parent or legal guardian of their student’s decision to identify as a different gender.
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The White House, however, contended Friday that the guidance should not be viewed as a threat that the federal government could withhold funding from schools that ignore the document.
“No one should be discriminated against because of who they are,” Earnest said, saying the guidance is aimed at ensuring the “dignity of every student.”
North Carolina GOP Gov. Pat McCrory , in a statement released Friday, blasted the administration’s guidance, saying “the executive branch of the federal government does not have the authority to be the final arbiter.
“President Obama ’s administration has instituted federally mandated edicts that affect employees as well as every parent and child within a public school system,” McCrory said. “This national bathroom, locker room and shower policy for almost every business, university and now K-12 school in our country changes generations of gender etiquette and privacy norms which parents, children and employees have expected in the most personal and private settings of their everyday lives.”