Transgender students' civil rights guidance issued by Trump administration

Transgender students' civil rights guidance issued by Trump administration

Transgender students' civil rights guidance issued by Trump administration

According to an internal memo issued by Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the department's office for civil rights, requirements that investigators broaden their inquiries to identify systemic issues and whole classes of victims will be scaled back. And investigators should avoid rejecting gender harassment allegations in a complaint, even if they have dismissed allegations involving "denial of access to restrooms based on gender identity". The guidance sparked legal challenges and a national debate about transgender students' rights.

"The Commission, by majority vote, expresses concern with the Administration's proposed budget cuts to and planned staff losses in numerous programs and civil rights offices across the federal government that enforce our nation's federal civil rights laws", the commission said in a statement. But it was vague about the polarizing issue of transgender students' access to bathrooms, saying that such cases could be dismissed, but stopping short of saying that such cases should be dismissed.

The Obama administration called on school districts to treat a student's gender identity as their sex and to treat students in a way consistent with their gender identities, including when it came to bathrooms and locker rooms.

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The memo lists a number of valid reasons why OCR investigators would be legally able to assert "subject matter jurisdiction over and open for investigation", such as a school's failure to quickly and equitably resolve a transgender student's complaint of sex discrimination or treating a student different because of his or her failure to conform to "stereotyped notions of masculinity or femininity".

However, one OCR employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Post that the memo is a "green light" to process discrimination complaints of transgender students, which include those that deal with bathroom access. "Americans would agree your rights should not be determined on your Zip code or what person in an office happened to handle your complaint", said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN (originally the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Jackson also states that OCR's goal is to swiftly address compliance issues raised by individual complaints, reach reasonable resolution agreements directly responsive to addressing the concerns raised in the individual complaint being resolved, and to encourage voluntary settlements whenever possible.

The investigation comes just a day after ProPublica reported, and Education Week confirmed, that the Education Department is planning to revamp civil rights procedures used during the Obama administration.

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As the Times noted, DOE investigations soared after Barack Obama's administration put an emphasis on systemic reviews and major reforms at school districts and colleges. "In OCR, processing times have skyrocketed in recent years, and the case backlog has exploded".

But critics say the new policies weaken the protections of the people who turn to the office for relief. For example, she said her office responded to two students who complained that Michigan State University hadn't properly responded to sexual assault allegations.

The commission warned that budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump's administration could lead to a "dangerous reduction" in civil rights law enforcement. The president's proposed budget would result in a loss of 46 positions from the Office of Civil Rights, a 7 percent cut.

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Under the Obama administration, the civil rights office sought to determine whether any one student's complaint about those issues was symptomatic of a broader problem, in part by examining at least three years of past complaint data. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement Thursday.

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