“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” the U.S. education secretary said as he directed schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with those students’ chosen gender identity.
The Obama administration’s May 13 directive, which applies to public schools and colleges, has been met with an upsurge of interest on the Internet.
Lookups for 'transgender' are up more than 630% this morning, following a letter from the Obama administration. https://t.co/SsExi7kDkb
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 13, 2016
Controversy in North Carolina
Education Secretary John B. King Jr. was joined by the chief law enforcement officer of the country, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in issuing the directive.
It comes just days after the Justice Department on May 9 sued North Carolina over a bathroom-access law that the administration says violates the rights of transgender people. Lynch likens the North Carolina law to policies of racial segregation and efforts to deny gay couples the right to marry.
“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” she said in a statement regarding the May 13 directive.
The guidance does not impose new legal requirements. But officials say it clarifies expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government, the Associated Press reported. Some educators have sought guidance on how to comply with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding.
The administration is releasing a 25-page document of questions and answers about best practices, including ways schools can make transgender students comfortable in the classroom and protect the privacy rights of all students in restrooms and locker rooms.
While the courts battle over the legality of North Carolina’s law, a new report by the Williams Institute at the University of California—Los Angeles School of Law says that the law could cost the state nearly $5 billion a year if it stands.
Of that, $4.8 billion is in federal grants and contracts, but the state also could lose more than $40 million in business investment, the study estimates.
Nearly all of the nation’s 20 largest cities, including New York City, have local or state nondiscrimination laws that allow transgender people to use whatever bathroom they identify with, according to the Associated Press.