Transgender activists lashed out at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos earlier this month after a Department of Education spokeswoman confirmed the agency would no longer investigate complaints from students not allowed to use the sex-segregated facilities of their choice.
Eliza Byard, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group GLSEN, called the news “devastating,” while also admitting it didn’t come as a surprise.
Until just a few years ago, “sex” in Title IX of the Civil Rights Act referred only to a student’s biology. During the Obama administration, the Education Department redefined “sex” to include gender identity, making the terms “male” and “female” subjective in the eyes of the government. Schools that did not agree with the change and open restrooms and locker rooms accordingly faced the possible loss of federal funding. To determine whether schools had violated the law under the new definition, the Education Department had to investigate every claim.
But DeVos rolled back her predecessor’s policy last year, ending the need to investigate restroom access claims. Students who believe they have been “penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes” can still file a Title IX claim, said Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill.
“In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX,” she told NPR. —L.J.