From FOX News
The Obama administration will send a letter to every public school district in the country telling them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity, as opposed to their birth certificate.
The letter, which is signed by officials at the Justice Department and the Department of Education, was to be sent out to the districts today.
While the letter does not have the force of law, it does warn that schools that do not abide by the administration’s interpretation of civil rights law may face lawsuits or loss of federal aid.
"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
Officials say the letter is meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government. Educators have been seeking guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.
“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” King said. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”
Under the guidance, schools are told that they must treat transgender students according to their chosen gender identity as soon as a parent or guardian notifies the district that that identity "differs from previous representations or records." There is no obligation for a student to present a specific medical diagnosis or identification documents that reflect his or her gender identity, and equal access must be given to transgender students even in instances when it makes others uncomfortable, according to the directive.
"As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others' discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students," the guidance says.
The administration is also releasing a separate 25-page document of questions and answers about best practices, including ways schools can make transgender students comfortable in the classroom and protect the privacy rights of all students in restrooms or locker rooms.
The move was cheered by Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian and transgender civil rights organization, which called the guidelines "groundbreaking."
"This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department and the state of North Carolina filed dueling lawsuits over the state’s controversial “bathroom” law, with the Obama administration answering an early-morning lawsuit filed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory with legal action of its own.
In their suit, the DOJ alleged a “pattern or practice of employment discrimination on the basis of sex” against the state over the law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate.
McCrory, in his lawsuit, accused the administration of a “baseless and blatant overreach” in trying to get the policy scrapped.
"This is an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the Courts," the state’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, said.