Using what one critic called its “coercive power,” the federal government has decreed in a letter being sent to all public schools and colleges that they must allow transgendered students to use whatever bathrooms they want.
Although the letter was being sent Friday, news of its existence was first reported Thursday night, spurring a harsh reaction.
“I got news for President Barack Obama. He ain’t my president and he can’t tell me what to do. That letter is going straight to the paper shredder,” said Rodney Canvass, superintendent of the Port Neches-Groves, Texas, School District.
“I have five daughters myself and I have 2,500 girls in my protection. Their moms and dads expect me to protect them. And that is what I am going to do. Now I don’t want them bullied … but there are accommodations that can be made short of this. He is destroying the very fiber of this country. He is not a leader. He is a failure,” Canvass said.
“This will be the beginning of the end of the public school system as we know it,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
“President Obama, in the dark of the night — without consulting Congress, without consulting educators, without consulting parents — decides to issue an executive order, like this superintendent, forcing transgender policies on schools and on parents who clearly don’t want it,” he said.
Although the letter from the Departments of Justice and Education does not have the force of law, it tells schools that federal officials will equate deviation from its directives with violating civil rights law. The letter contains similar language to that used by the Justice Department and the Education Department in court cases in which schools have been sued to give transgender students the bathroom access the students demand.
“A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” it said.
The letter reminds schools that if they want federal aid, they must follow the rules of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.
“The Departments interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity,” it said.
The edict could affect more than bathrooms.
It will impact sports and extracurricular activities. The letter said schools may have separate teams for males and females, but must not “rely on overly broad generalizations or stereotypes about the differences between transgender students and other students of the same sex.”
The letter says transgender students should be treated with leniency in other ways.
Schools “may not discipline students or exclude them from participating in activities for appearing or behaving in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity or that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” The example given is that for yearbook photos, school dances and graduation ceremonies, students can dress and act based on their chosen gender.
The logic behind the letter has already been used in a court case involving a transgendered Virginia student who sued to gain access to the female locker rooms. With the Justice Department on his side, the student won a 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals case.
“This holding completely tramples on all universally accepted protections of privacy and safety that are based on the anatomical differences between the sexes,” wrote dissenting Judge Paul Niemeyer in that case.
“This unprecedented holding overrules custom, culture, and the very demands inherent in human nature for privacy and safety, which the separation of such facilities is designed to protect. More particularly, it also misconstrues the clear language of Title IX and its regulations,” he wrote.
Reactions to the edict were swift from religious and political leaders.
“The state here wishes to use its coercive power not simply to stop mistreatment of people but to rescript the most basic human intuitions about humanity as male and female,” wrote pastor Russell Moore.
Is there any issue the Obama Administration believes can be left to state and local government?
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) May 13, 2016
“Is there any issue the Obama Administration believes can be left to state and local government?” tweeted Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 13, 2016
“I announced today that Texas is fighting this. Obama can’t rewrite the Civil Rights Act. He’s not a King,” tweeted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.