Schools discuss Obama directive on transgender students

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Obama administration issued a directive Friday to every public school system in the country, instructing them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches the gender they identify as.

The letter, which was signed by officials with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, does not have the weight of law, but it warns that schools that do not abide could face lawsuits or loss of federal aid.

Officials with the Dallas County School System and Selma City School System said they are evaluating the situation.

“Right now we are waiting to see what our attorney has to say about which way we are going to go,” said Dallas County Superintendent Hattie Shelton. “We are going to make sure our kids are safe and make sure they are comfortable going to school where they are. We are going to follow whatever guidelines we have to … but right now we are waiting to hear back from our attorney.”

The letter provides a list of guidelines to school systems, including examples on how the departments are evaluating whether the law is being followed

It specifically details how schools should handle restrooms, locker rooms, athletics, housing and overnight accommodations.

“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,” the letter reads on restrooms and locker rooms. “A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”

Angela Mangum, superintendent of the Selma City School System, said she will ensure that the system follows all laws.

“I am a policy and a rule follower,” Mangum said. “I am going to be in compliance with local, state and federal laws and policies. In my role as superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure that policies and procedures are followed and that my personal belief system, in terms of the policy of a district, don’t mix in that regard.”

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange denounced the policies sent out Friday, calling them an example of “federal overreach.”

“School bathroom use is an issue that should be decided by parents, teachers, and principals — not federal bureaucrats,” Strange said. “The DOJ guidance document is also wrong on the law. Title IX allows schools to have separate facilities for separate sexes. The law says ‘sex,’ not gender identity. If the Obama Administration tries to enforce this absurd edict, I will work with other Attorneys General to challenge it.”