By: Jim Campbell
President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. Department of Education will rescind his predecessor’s letter demanding that schools open locker rooms and similar facilities to students of the opposite sex. The Obama administration’s now-overturned policy was an unlawful attempt to rewrite Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—a statute that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating “on the basis of sex.”
President Obama had implausibly declared that the term “sex” in Title IX includes the altogether distinct notion of “gender identity.” Sex, after all, is rooted in biological truth determined at birth by objective criteria (like anatomy and chromosomes). But gender identity, in sharp contrast, is based on subjective perceptions (“how I feel determines what I am”).
By unlawfully adding gender identity to Title IX, the prior administration demanded that all schools receiving federal funds must allow students who profess a gender identity that conflicts with their sex to access overnight facilities, locker rooms, and restrooms designated for the opposite sex. In other words, schools were forced to permit students who are male but profess a female identity to share lodging and shower facilities with female students.
This federal overreach was illegal. Alliance Defending Freedom has a number of ongoing lawsuits that aim to stop the feds from rewriting Title IX and local school boards from violating the dignity and privacy rights of their students.
By overturning the prior administration’s power grab, President Trump has enabled local school boards once again to protect the dignity and privacy rights of all their students.
President Obama had put schools to an impossible choice: sacrifice the dignity and privacy rights of their students by opening overnight facilities, locker rooms, and restrooms to the opposite sex; or protect those rights while watching the government strip away federal funding that schools spend on critical items like special-education programs and lunches for underprivileged children. This dilemma, thanks to President Trump’s actions, is gone.
So now is the time for action by school boards that caved to the prior administration’s demands. They should undo their policy changes and take steps to protect the dignity and privacy rights of all their students.
Local schools (not the federal government) are in the best position to devise effective policies that (1) respect and value students who are struggling with gender-identity issues and (2) protect the vital privacy interests of students who are understandably uncomfortable sharing overnight facilities, locker rooms, or restrooms with people of the opposite sex. Many options are available, like providing private, single-user facilities for students struggling with gender-identity issues. School board members are once again free to work out these sensitive issues at the local level—where they belong.
This is very good news. As a recent Wall Street Journal article recognized, the Department of Education can now “focus on higher priorities than serving as national bathroom monitors.” And schools can ensure that their facilities-access policies serve the best interests of all their students.
To learn more about what ADF is doing to protect students’ dignity and privacy rights, visit the link below.