Detroit, MI–The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice today released a letter to schools across America confirming unequivocally that discrimination against transgender students is a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The letter, accompanied by 20 pages of best practices, set forth in detail the legal obligations of schools to their transgender students, including ensuring equal access to restrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity. The document stated explicitly that:
“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
Last month, Equality Michigan hosted a White House Summit in Dearborn with officials from several federal agencies to discuss issues of importance to Michigan’s LGBT community. Among them was the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, who spoke to the administration’s commitment to equal educational opportunity for transgender students and the seriousness with which OCR treats violations of Title IX. Today’s action serves to illustrate just how serious federal officials are about protecting transgender students from discrimination.
Equality Michigan Executive Director, Stephanie White, lauded the Obama administration’s action:
“These guidelines provide school districts with sorely needed and frequently requested guidance about how they can ensure that transgender students have access to the safe learning environments and the equal educational opportunities they are entitled to under Title IX. The Obama administration should be commended for taking bold and decisive action to protect transgender students across the country from harassment and discrimination at school.”
The administration’s action is particularly important for students here in Michigan where lawmakers have been considering legislation targeting transgender students. State Senator Tom Casperson has threatened repeatedly to introduce a bill banning transgender students from accessing bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity and extreme members of the State House have floated similar ideas. Today’s federal guidance underscores what Equality Michigan has been saying from day one: Casperson’s proposal is unlawful and would endanger transgender students across Michigan.
While lawmakers have yet to introduce anti-transgender bills, opposition has been mounting rapidly and includes: over 150 faith leaders, parents, leading Michigan businesses, including Kellogg, Herman Miller, Dow, and Whirlpool, the National Association of Social Workers – Michigan, Michigan Association of School Social Workers, Mental Health Association in Michigan, Michigan School Health Coordinators Association, Association for Children’s Mental Health, and many others. This growing chorus of opposition comes as no surprise at a time when both everyday Michiganders and a growing majority of reasonable policymakers in Lansing realize the value of building a state that is welcoming to all and that values both diversity and inclusion. In Michigan, and across the United States, anti-LGBT bills like Casperson’s have become the pet project of extremists, not the stuff of serious leaders who are working to move our state and country forward.
“From every corner of our state, Michiganders have spoken out strongly in opposition to Senator Casperson’s bathroom inspection bill. Today’s action by the Obama administration makes it crystal clear that Senator Casperson’s bill would put Michigan on a collision course with federal civil rights authorities and force our schools into the impossible position of having to choose between complying with the Casperson bathroom policing law or with their legal obligations under Title IX,” said White. “Equality Michigan calls on serious, future-focused lawmakers in Lansing to abandon futile and dangerous anti-LGBT proposals, like Senator Casperson’s, and to join with us in working to build a Michigan that is welcoming to all, beginning with amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Michigan remains one of 28 states that does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, or public accommodations. It is one of 29 that fails to provide those basic protections based on gender identity.
* The entire federal “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” can be found here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/850986/download.