Late in the day on Friday, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department – now headed by Jeff Sessions – announced that it would drop a challenge to a nationwide injunction against guidance issued last year by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice on the rights of transgender students under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Many now fear that the administration may be preparing to revoke the guidance entirely and change its stance on what those critical federal protections mean for trans students.
This latest action sends a terrible message to some of the most vulnerable young people in the country that the Trump administration does not care about protecting them from discrimination. It was only several weeks ago that the White House proudly announced that “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.” But actions speak far louder than words, and the early signs from Trump’s Justice Department are not good.
It is important for trans students across the country and their parents to know this: The law is on your side, and we at the ACLU will fight to make sure you are protected.
The Trump administration does not have the authority to undo legal protections for trans students. Trans students are protected by the U.S. Constitution and Title IX. School districts across the country must still comply with the law. Schools that have done the right thing by treating trans students with dignity and respect should continue to do so. Schools that discriminate against trans students will continue to face liability in court. Barring trans students from single-sex spaces like restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with the gender the student lives every day, is a violation of that student’s constitutional and civil rights.
The ACLU is deeply committed to the fight for trans equality, and we will continue our work to safeguard the dignity and rights of trans students.
Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gavin Grimm’s transgender rights case. Gavin is a 17-year-old boy whose Virginia high school has forced him to use separate restroom facilities from all other students because he is transgender. The ACLU sued the school district on Gavin’s behalf, and a lower federal court held that the school board’s actions were unlawful sex discrimination. The school board continued to fight against Gavin’s right to use the restroom all the way to the Supreme Court.
If the Trump administration will not step up to defend trans students, the ACLU will. Every student deserves the right to a quality education that is free of discrimination. To President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, we say this: Trans students deserve better.