The Department of Education and the Department of Justice tonight issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter changing their position from that of the previous administration by rescinding guidance that clarified the rights of transgender students under Title IX, the federal antidiscrimination law that applies to schools.
The new Trump administration guidance cannot undo the legal protections under Title IX and the Constitution that apply to transgender students. The majority of federal courts have upheld the Obama administration’s guidance, and the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to definitely vindicate the rights of transgender students under federal law in March when it hears a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Gavin Grimm. Moreover, there are independent protections for students in New York State law that will be unaffected by the guidance.
The following statement is attributable to New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman:
“The Trump administration has made it clear that it will not protect the rights of the transgender community – one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. Even as the law remains on the side of transgender students, the administration’s new guidance sends them a terrible message about their right to receive an education as the people that they are, and creates national confusion around our civil rights laws that will put countless transgender children’s lives and well-being at risk.”
“There is no question that state law independently continues to protect the rights of transgender students here in New York. But with the federal government embracing a dangerous, discriminatory position, we urge Governor Cuomo to strengthen state protections for transgender students by fixing a loophole in the state Human Rights Law to ensure that it applies to students facing discrimination, and improving existing protections by passing the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).”
Regardless of federal law, students in New York have the right to:
- Use the restroom and locker room in accordance with their gender identity
- Participate in gender-segregated activities in accordance with their gender identity
- Adhere to dress codes in accordance with their gender identity and expression
- Be protected from harassment based on their gender identity and expression;
- Maintain privacy regarding their gender identity, among other protections.