The Obama administration will issue a letter of guidance today to public schools around the country, suggesting that they allow transgender students to use bathrooms in line with their gender identity, Reuters reports.
The guidance is not legally enforceable but suggests that states could face repercussions in the form of lost funds or lawsuits down the track if they don’t follow it. ABC obtained a copy of the letter:
As a condition of receiving federal funds, “a school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” reads a letter outlining guidance for schools, obtained by ABC.
While schools are permitted to offer single-use restrooms to students seeking “additional privacy,” they should not require transgender students to use single-use facilities if their classmates are not required to do the same, the edict adds.
Today’s letter, signed by officials from the Department of Justice and Department of Education, comes days after the Department of Justice announced that it’s bringing a civil rights law suit against the state of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina, and the state’s governor Pat McCrory. The state is in turn suing the Department of Justice, claiming that the government’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act is an overreach.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch compared North Carolina’s transphobic HB2, which bans people from using bathrooms that don’t match the gender assigned to them at birth, to segregationist Jim Crow laws.
“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference,” she said. “We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward.”
The letter will comes with guidance on “emerging practices”, ABC reports, including a list offering best practice suggestions on how to make sure all students feel safe at school. That includes advice for teachers to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns.