Education Law

US tells schools to allow transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity

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The United States is sending letters to public schools across the country that says transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The letter “contains an implicit threat” that schools that don’t comply could face lawsuits or a loss of federal funding, the New York Times reports. The Associated Press and the Washington Post also have stories on the letter, which provides guidance on how to comply with Title IX of the Education Act of 1972.

“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases,” the letter says, “the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

The letter advises schools they may provide other restroom and locker room options to students who want additional privacy. The letter is being sent by Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The letter follows a decision last month by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstating a Title IX suit by a transgender student against his school for banning him from the restroom that corresponds to his gender identity. It also comes amid dueling lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department and North Carolina over a state law requiring schools and other government facilities to restrict multiple-occupancy bathrooms to people of the same biological sex.

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