By Jessica Chia
The Education Department confirmed for the first time that it will cease to investigate complaints filed by transgender students over which bathrooms they're allowed to use because it does not consider the issue protected under Title IX.
The Obama administration directed public schools in 2016 to allow students to use the bathrooms of their choice, arguing that federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex.
But the Trump administration withdrew the guidance in February 2017, issuing a statement that said the Education and Justice Departments would continue to "consider the legal issues involved."
"The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear all claims of discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students," the statement read.
It remained unclear what the official stance was until the Education Department confirmed it did not consider the bathroom issue protected under Title IX, Buzzfeed reported.
And while it would continue to address other complaints filed by transgender students, it would no longer look into ones regarding the use of bathrooms.
"Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX," spokeswoman Liz Hill told Buzzfeed.
"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 added.
Catherine Lhamon, who headed the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights under Obama, slammed the Trump administration for "turning its back on transgender students."
"[IT IS] totally inconsistent with the requirement that federal agencies enforce the law as written," she wrote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ripped Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and tweeted, "You took an oath to protect children, students, teachers and school leaders of all backgrounds. Do your job. #ProtectTransStudents."
Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "The department's failure to act conflicts with the law in multiple jurisdictions, including federal circuits, and further emboldens those who seek to discriminate against transgender students.
"Once again, Secretary DeVos proves she is not interested in protecting transgender students and instead is choosing to advance the dangerous Trump-Pence anti-LGBTQ agenda," she said.
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