The Impact of President Trump’s Announcement Rescinding Federal Guidance Protecting Transgender Youth
In May 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a letter outlining what a public school’s responsibilities are to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and how both DOJ and ED will evaluate a school’s compliance.
The guidance was not legally binding, but was rooted in legal precedent. The Department of Education first announced in 2014 that Title IX protections cover transgender students. In December 2015, the Department of Education settled a complaint with a school district in Palatine, IL — following a similar case in Arcadia, CA — affirming that transgender discrimination is illegal sex discrimination. In 2016, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Virginia transgender teenager Gavin Grimm, declaring that his local school board’s move to ban him from using the restroom that matched his gender identity violated Title IX. That case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
President Donald Trump’s administration today rescinded this guidance. Here are some top-line messages to use in discussing this, as well as more detailed information highlighting the challenges transgender students face.
The Significance of the Trump Administration’s Announcement
- Every student deserves a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future—including students who are transgender. Every student should be treated fairly and equally under the law, and protecting transgender students helps ensure that they have the same opportunity as their classmates to fully participate in school.
- By rescinding this non-binding guidance, the Trump administration is sending a message to transgender kids that the President of the United States doesn’t have their backs.
- It’s important to remember that transgender students continue to have access to legal protections under the requirements of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex. Federal laws that are used to protect transgender students have not changed, and school districts across the country must still comply with the law.
- The Trump administration’s decision to rescind this guidance has no impact on schools that are already doing the right thing in line with this guidance – they can, should, and will continue to protect transgender students.
- That’s why revoking this guidance is indicative of the administration’s disregard for transgender youth and the many challenges they face. While it may not have a legal impact, it sends an alarming messaging that bullying and harassment are ok.
The Implications on the Future of Equality for Transgender Students
- Schools have already long protected transgender students and will continue to do so. According to GLSEN:
- More than 18 million students attend public K-12 schools within the 12 states and District of Columbia that have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination statutes.
- More than 19 million students attend public K-12 schools within the 14 states and District of Columbia that have LGBT- OR LGB-inclusive nondiscrimination statutes.
- Nearly 22 million students attend public K-12 schools within the 18 states and District of Columbia that have LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying statutes.
- School districts across the country encompassing millions of students have had protections in place for transgender students for years, including in same-sex restrooms and facilities, without incident.
- But around the country, millions of transgender students are vulnerable as lawmakers consider local legislation that would permit discrimination or roll back existing nondiscrimination protections. With the hostility of the current administration, local victories are more important than ever. Americans are beginning an important and necessary conversation about what it means to be transgender, who transgender people are, and what the specific cultural and legal challenges are that prevent them from living their lives safely and openly.
- Transgender Americans are alreadyone of our most vulnerable and unprotected populations – and that vulnerability is particularly acute for transgender youth. Nearly nine in ten transgender students are verbally harassed at school due to their gender identity and more than half have been physically assaulted, according to a 2009 GLSEN survey.
- There is so much at stake with the policies that guide what kinds of atmospheres we create in the schools our children attend. The 2016 DOJ and ED guidance which the Trump administration has just rescinded was a commonsense and long-overdue measure to ensure that all students can attend school in safe and nurturing environments. Claims that this type of guidance exposes anyone to harm are patently false and intentionally misleading. In fact, comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender Americans are on the books in 18 states and more than 200 cities, and there has been no increase in threats to public safety or privacy.
Consequences for Trans Youth
- The Trump administration’s action sends a terrible message to vulnerable transgender youth. Regardless of the existing legal protections, the administration’s needless steps to rescind the guidance is tantamount to telling transgender youth that, in the eyes of the government, they are not welcome in their schools and are not worthy of the equal treatment and fairness afforded to all other students.
- It’s a demoralizing step for our president to take, and it absolutely threatens the ability of transgender students to go to school in safe and supportive environments.
- In fact, there are already myriad challenges facing transgender youth all across the country. According to GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey:
- More than 75 percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school.
- Nearly 60 percent of transgender students have been forced to use a bathroom or locker room inconsistent with their gender identity.
- More than 63 percent of transgender students avoid using public restrooms because of fears of harassment or assault.
- Every student should have a fair chance to succeed in school.But when anti-trans policies single out transgender youth for isolation and harm, there are consequences that extend into their academic careers as well. According to the National School Climate Survey, the hostile atmosphere in schools can damage a student’s self-esteem, hurt their GPA and ultimately make these students less likely to plan for college.
- It’s unsurprising, then, that transgender youth face greater mental health challenges because of the hostile environments in which they often find themselves. According to a January 2015 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health:
- Transgender youth are significantly more likely than cisgender (non-transgender) youth to face depression – 50.6 percent to 20.6 percent.
- Transgender youth experience significantly higher levels of anxiety than their cisgender peers, 27.6 percent to 10 percent.
- Transgender youth are more than three times as likely to contemplate suicide – 31.1 percent to 11.1 percent.
- Restricting or outright denying transgender students access to restroom facilities can cause serious problems for someone’s physical health. Some transgender students will avoid eating or drinking, dehydrating themselves to prevent themselves from using an unsafe restroom. This can cause long-term health problems like urinary tract infections.
- These statistics offer just some insight into the urgency behind protecting transgender students in schools. That’s why there’s federal funding on the line for states like North Carolina – states that go out of their way to jeopardize the safety and well-being of transgender people, particularly youth.
- States that willingly violate Title IXrisk losing their federal education funding – as well as seeing a host of other federal funding streams go dry. The Williams Institute found that a ballot measure denying transgender students access to restrooms in Washington State would cost the state $4.3 billion a year in federal education dollars including student loans and college funding. North Carolina’s HB 2 threatens $4.3 billion in funding for public schools, colleges and universities.