You may remember back in February of this year (2017) when the Trump Administration along with the U.S. Department of Education and Justice issued a letter withdrawing protections for transgender students instituted by the Obama administration. Following the so-called reversal the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in March of dismissed a multi-state lawsuit which challenged a May 2016 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and dissolved the preliminary injunction that had restricted enforcement of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Supreme Court (SC) also vacated and remanded a case titled Gloucester County School Board vs. GG involving Title IX in regards to transgender student’s access to restrooms down to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration. The SC said “in light of the guidance document issued by the [Departments] letter,” on February 22nd.
But according to a memo sent by Candice Jackson the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights to Regional Directors back on June 6th 2017; it appears that the administration has backtracked on the aforementioned letter saying “withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment,” and “rather, OCR should rely on Title IX and its implementing regulations, as interpreted in decisions of federal courts and OCR guidance documents that remain in effect, in evaluating complaints of sex discrimination against individuals whether or not the individual is transgender. This means that the OCR will investigate any case’s regarding a student or teacher’s noncompliance in accommodating a transgender student’s preferences as an act “of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping.” or if they (teacher or student) refuses to address a transgender student by their desired name or pronoun.
Some of you may ask how did this reverse of course happen; according to the same memo which was obtained by the Miller News Service it points to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos who says that “each school has a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe environment.” Devos who has openly supported LGBTQ rights also said in the memo that the “OCR remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying, and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools,” and “OCR exists to robustly enforce the civil rights laws under our jurisdiction.”
In a press release the California-based Pacific Justice Institue (PJI) responded to the memo saying that the OCR “bluntly labels the refusal of a student or teacher to accommodate a transgender student’s preferences as an act “of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping.” They (PJI) say that “Teachers and students would be forced to learn and use confusing an ever-growing list of new pronouns,” and that a miscommunication of these pronouns, “would easily lead to severe penalties for teachers and students.” Brad Dacus, President of the Institute said in a statement: “While school districts should have policies protecting all students from harassment, we’re deeply disappointed by the Trump Administration’s action that endangers the liberties of students, teachers, and administrators.” He also told the Miller News Service that PJI “stand ready to help teachers or students” who are affected by the continuance of Title IX and future actions taken by the Office of Civil Rights.
This comes as California’s San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees on July 1st, 2017 approved a new first of its kind framework regarding how students should be punished; it’s being dubbed the School Climate Bill of Rights. According to KNSD-TV in San Diego, “it would keep misbehaving students in school rather than suspend or expel them.” Instead, students, parents, and educators are “given the right to be informed about resolving conflicts through restorative practices such as healing, respect, support and the general well-being of students,” with an emphasis on the community. The School Climate Bill of Rights was proposed by the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network in City Heights and was used in pilot programs at the following schools in San Diego County: Crawford High School and Hoover High School. Brad Dacus of PJI tells the Miller News Service that “while anti-bullying programs like this are good, they often cause more intolerance and discrimination against students with different or opposing views.”
It is still unknown on what the effects this might have on schools nationwide.
Keep reading the Miller News Service for updates on this story.
© 2017 Miller News Service