A directive from the Obama administration will advise officials at U.S. public school districts to allow transgender students access to restrooms that match accordingly with their gender identity.
The letter, which was obtained by The New York Times on Thursday, is set to be sent the morning of Friday, May 13. The document urges public schools to “ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns.”
The memo also states that “as is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”
The document was co-signed by officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.
The directive comes after a months-long kerfuffle over North Carolina’s widely reported anti-LGBT bill, known as HB2, which most notably denied trans citizens access to restrooms correlative to their self-identified gender. The legislation also allowed business owners to deny service to members of the LGBT community based on personal belief. The bill has since been revised.
“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” secretary of the Department of Education John B. King, Jr. also told NYT. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”
While the directive has no legal backing, NYT also pointed out that those who fail to comply with the document, which includes a 25-page guide of “emerging practices” already upheld in schools across the nation, will most likely lose federal aid.
The measures included call for respect and privacy for transgender students, like letting said students change in bathroom stalls. From what can be discerned, these rules are meant to align more with the comfortableness and safety of trans students, rather than the general majority—though nothing can be determined until the memo is sent.
School employees interviewed by NYT spoke to to the positive nature of these implemented measures. A high school principal named Thomas Aberli, who oversaw the effects of a trans-inclusive policy he and his fellow administrators put in place in 2015, commented that it has since been a “nonissue.”
“What you don’t do is tell a kid, ‘You know, there is something so freakishly different about you that you make other people uncomfortable, so we’re going to make you do something different,’” Aberli told NYT. “There’s been no incident since its implementation.”
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