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Justice, Education Depts. Release Title IX Guidelines on Transgender Students

President Obama greets Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Oval Office on May 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Loretta Lynch declared “there is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex” as the Justice Department jointly released accommodation guidelines with the Department of Education today.

According to a DOJ release, the guidance “explains schools’ obligations” under Title IX, under which schools can lose federal funding for discrimination, to:

  • “Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status or gender transition;”
  • “Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;”
  • “Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and”
  • “Protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

The guidance states that schools can use private areas designated for transgender students to change or go to the bathroom. It “does not require any student to use shared bathrooms or changing spaces, when, for example, there are other appropriate options available; and schools can also take steps to increase privacy within shared facilities,” according to DOJ.

The Department of Education also released a 25-page “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices to Support Transgender Students” guide with notes on how other school districts have handled various aspects of transgender issues.

“Using transgender students’ birth names or pronouns that do not match their gender identity risks disclosing a student’s transgender status,” the guide states. “…Some schools have adopted policies to prepare all school staff and students to use a student’s newly adopted name, if any, and pronouns that are consistent with a student’s gender identity.”

“…Dress codes that apply the same requirements regardless of gender are the most inclusive for all students and avoid unnecessarily reinforcing sex stereotypes.”

Education Secretary John King said in a statement that “no student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus.”

“This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly – that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law,” King said. “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.”

The guidance comes the same week that the DOJ filed a lawsuit against North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).

“This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies,” Lynch said today. “I look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Education – and with schools across the country – to create classroom environments that are safe, nurturing, and inclusive for all of our young people.”

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the guidance “sends a clear message to transgender students across the country: here in America, you are safe, you are protected and you belong – just as you are.”