WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Education will tell school districts Friday that federal law requires them to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms "consistent with their gender identity," escalating the pressure from theObama administration on the contentious public debate over transgender rights.
In a "dear colleague" letter to school districts first reported by the New York Times, the Department of Education maintains that requiring transgender students to use same-sex facilities violates Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex. The letter was provided to USA TODAY by two administration officials who would not discuss it publicly because it hadn't been sent.
"When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity," reads the letter, signed by two Obama administration officials responsible for enforcing civil rights laws: Assistant Secretary of Education Catherine E. Lhamon, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
The move by the Obama administration comes the same week that the Justice Department and the state of North Carolina traded lawsuits over that state's law requiring people to use public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate, providing an election-year clash on what's considered a volatile social and political issue. read more