The decree came in the form of a letter from the Justice department and Education department describing specific ways schools are expected to prevent discrimination against transgender students.
And just in case you slept through your high school civics class, that is exactly what those departments are supposed to do. In fact, providing guidance about how to execute and enforce federal laws is kinda the job of the President--you know the executive branch--that whole "checks and balances" thing.
It would appear that a number of state officials and lawyers missed that part of the civics lesson, as the lawsuit is asking the courts to block the implementation or application of the law by the federal government. The laws in question here include Title IX and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which prohibit discrimination in schools on the basis of student's sex. The Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Education is tasked with enforcing these statutes in educational programs that receive federal funding.
And yet I woke up this morning to arguments on the radio about the need for local control rather than federal regulations regarding bathroom policies in schools.
These arguments sound eerily similar to those made by opponents of same-sex marriage. Which shouldn't be surprising really. Many of the same people who oppose civil rights for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are vocal opponents of transgender rights. And they are using similar tired and discredited arguments attempting to scare people into thinking that they and/or their children won't be safe if gender neutral bathrooms become widespread. Some have even argued that transgender bathrooms are really a proxy issue for the entire cultural battle over LGBT rights.
I applaud the Obama administration's decision to take a stand on this issue--to root their policy recommendations in best practices and clearly articulate that discrimination in schools is unacceptable. It is so important that trans youth hear the message given by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch
“We stand with you,” she said. “And we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side.”
But I understand that some people are genuinely afraid--afraid of sexual assault against adults and children. I understand that fear and the desire to protect loved ones. As a vocal advocate for the prevention of sexual violence, I am completely on board with work that prevents sexual assault. But using the threat of sexual violence to scare people into discriminating against an entire group of people--and in this case children--is wrong and short-sighted. True safety never comes at the expense of others' human dignity. None of us are free until we are all free.
Yes, some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of their child sharing a bathroom with a transgender child. But that discomfort does not justify discrimination. That discomfort is likely rooted in a lack of information and misinformation. But those things can be addressed by letting people ask questions, providing them with accurate knowledge, and exposing them to new ideas.
And isn't that was educational institutions are supposed to do?
Britney G Brinkman, Ph.D.