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Legislators Denounce Department’s Transgender Directive, Long Road Appears

Legislators Denounce Department’s Transgender Directive, Long Road Appears

In the days since the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would be holding schools financially accountable for discriminating against transgendered students, legislators in numerous states have spoken out against the order.

While several states have already sought out paths to providing transgendered students with equal bathroom rights (see: Michigan without the directive), others were in the process of considering legislation that did the opposite.

Like North Carolina, a handful of states have been looking to follow in its controversial footsteps by denying transgendered students from using facilities other than those that correspond to their birth sex.

Legislators from those states have been the most vocal about unwillingness to comply, indicating that it might be a long road before such a directive is easily applied in all schools.

Legislators Refuse Compliance 

In Missouri, for example, Attorney General and potential Democratic nominee for governor Chris Koster " told the Associated Press that the Obama administration moved 'too quickly and too unilaterally,” said The Kansas City Star.

Other Missouri legislators said the directive “threatens the health” of the state’s students; one routinely controversial legislator said the order protects “a behavior inconsistent with natural law.” 

In an article calling the new directive “dead on arrival,” CrossMap discusses how Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he would rather forfeit the education funding the state receives- $10 billion in total-than comply.

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves called the directive “out of touch with the American people.”

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called the order nothing more than “intimidation.”

Even the typically quiet governor of Utah spoke out.

"If we have to fight this order, we will not hesitate to do so,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Previous U.S. Department of Education's Actions Foreshadowed Sweeping Directive 

The list of unhappy legislators goes on and on. On Monday, President Obama said he issued the directive because schools were routinely asking for guidance. This is true.

But while many legislators are acting blind-sided by the measure, a quick look at the Department of Education’s recent history acting in transgendered students affairs could indicate such a move was coming.

This past year, for example, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled that Township High School District 211 was in the wrong for embarrassing and inconveniencing a transgendered student who was not allowed to use the bathroom or locker room she identified with.

For the first time, the OCR threatened to use financial sanctions against the district if it did not comply with making accommodations for transgendered students. Though the OCR made clear in its report its ruling was restricted to the case only, it was obvious that a larger ruling was coming.

The administration behind Township High School District 211 was hesitant but eventually did comply with the OCR'S ruling, meaning the Department has not yet once imposed sanctions on schools or districts for interfering with transgendered students rights. How the Department will chose to proceed as so many legislators say they will refuse to comply is anyone's guess. 

Related readings:

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

5/18/2016

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