DOE, Justice Department Threaten Public Schools Over “Gender Identity”
Analysis by Gail Deibler Finke
In the latest government declaration that there is no objective truth, the US Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued guidelines Friday aimed at strong-arming all public schools into opening bathrooms, locker rooms, sports activities and trips, and related school facilities to students based on the “gender identity” they claim.
The guidelines were issued in a letter sent to all public school districts along with a 25-page booklet outlining model school policies. The letter, according to a report by the New York Times, “ does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.”
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who recently compared restricting school restrooms and locker rooms to students based on their sex to Jim Crow segregation laws, said “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” in a statement accompanying the guidelines.
The generally left-leaning New York Times called the guidelines “the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people,” citing so-called “gay marriage,” the end of prohibitions against people with same-sex attraction serving openly in the military, and similar initiatives by the administration as examples of what it considers victories in a “struggle” similar to civil rights battles of the past.
Conservatives, however, called the move madness and identified it as part of an ongoing cultural trend toward relativism that goes far beyond acceptance of people with unusual sexual proclivities and requires totalitarian measures to enforce. By requiring institutions to deny any meaningful difference between men and women, conservatives say, the US government increases its control over education, state and local laws, and both public and private institutions, and denies any legitimate diasgreement with what it decrees — even about whether citizens are men or women.
The Family Research Council, a pro-family Christian organization that has been identified as an “anti-gay hate group” by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center because of its support of marriage and other related issues, called the guidelines a blatant attempt to take power from parents and schools.
“Under the guise of ‘protecting students from discrimination,’ these federal agencies are using the bully pulpit to strip parents and local school districts of the right to do something as simple as have separate restrooms and showers for boys and girls,” the organization wrote in an email to supporters. “In the eyes of the president, parents and local schools entrusted with teaching our children can’t be trusted with setting bathroom standards.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit law firm that has been helping school districts create bathroom policies that protect student privacy, calls the DOJ’s attempt to call restricting bathrooms and locker rooms to people of the same a sex a threat to civil rights “a dazzling display of duplicity,” and says that the loss of federal funding is an empty threat — no school has been denied funding since Title IX became law.
Following the release of the letter to the media, conservative writer and Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain said, “This order works against the interests of the confused child and the well being of other children who see rights are trampled at the altar of political correctness. Mental health counseling for the child and his or her parents would be a more appropriate response.”
Catholic author, speaker, and Princeton Professor Robert P. George wrote, “Will anyone in the political class have the courage to stand up and say: This is madness. I will oppose it? Obviously no Democrat will do so. The entire party is in the grip of sexual revolutionary dogma of which gender ideology is an integral part. It is now established doctrine that the belief that objective biological reality, not subjective psychological feeling, is what makes someone male or female is a form of ‘bigotry’…. So what about the Republicans? Will they—any of them—resist or even criticize what Obama is doing?”
The most vocal reactions to the guidelines have come from governors. Texas Governor Greg Abbott told delegates at a Republican convention that he and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who signed a law restricting bathrooms and changing rooms in the state’s public buildings to people who share the same biological sex, would work together to oppose the guidelines. He also said that “Obama can’t rewrite the Civil Rights Act,” and “is not a King.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich has not made a public statement on the guidelines, but previously told Face the Nation that he opposed North Carolina’s law “out of concerns about LGBT discrimination.” But he has also said that rules about school facilities should be made on the local level. His views about local control vary — he is a proponent of Common Core, but also a proponent of school vouchers and charter schools.
The governors of Kentucky and Indiana, however castigated the guidelines as overreach, and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin called them and an attempt by the President to divide the country. Both issued official statements Friday.
Gov. Bevin’s statement reads, “It is difficult to imagine a more absurd federal overreach into a local issue. Under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the federal government has no authority to interfere in local school districts’ bathroom policies. The President is not promoting unity. In fact, he is doing quite the opposite. He is intentionally dividing America by threatening to sue or withhold funding from our cash-strapped public schools if they do not agree with his personal opinion on policies that remain squarely in their jurisdiction. They should not feel compelled to bow to such intimidation. My administration is researching the options available for ensuring that this local issue is decided by Kentuckians, not by bureaucrats in Washington.”
Gov. Pence’s said, “I have long believed that education is a state and local function. Policies regarding the security and privacy of students in our schools should be in the hands of Hoosier parents and local schools, not bureaucrats in Washington D.C. The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature. I am confident that parents, teachers and administrators will continue to resolve these matters without federal mandates and in a manner that reflects the common sense and compassion of our state.”
The guidelines say that schools are not to prohibit any student from using any facilities that match the gender he or she “identifies as,” including dorm rooms, hotel rooms on school trips, bathrooms, and locker rooms; but should instead provide single-use rooms for any student who wants privacy. They say that schools may restrict sports participation by sex, but only for safetyr reasons. They say that schools should take the word of the student or the student’s family (rather than ask for any diagnosis, proof of treatment, or other corroborating evidence) and, if the student does not want his or her family notified of a different “gender identification,” should not contact parents. Teachers are to refer to the student by the name and pronouns he or she prefers.
In a statement issued with the guidelines, Us Secretary of Education John King said, ‘“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus. 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.”
But the guidelines acknowledge that the policy will cause discomfort to most, if not all, American students and their families — and state that “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 letter from the Department of Justice refers to the guidelines as if they are part of, or related to, the Civil Rights Act. “Many parents, schools and districts have raised questions about this area of civil rights law,” it reads in part, and adds that “these documents will help navigate what may be a new terrain for some.” They are new terrain for all, as they never have been part of civil rights law.
The clear implications of the guidelines, the Department of Justice’s involvement in issuing them, and the threat of funding cuts and legal action lawsuits is that the Obama administration intends to impose standards that go far beyond who can use what bathroom. By identifying common sense bathroom and changing room restrictions as hateful and bigoted discrimination against people it has determined are victims of oppression rather than of their own disorders, the Obama administration has thrown down the gauntlet to religious and social conservatives, and to anyone who knows the difference between men and women. The guidelines deny biology and require all public school teachers and administrators to do the same. They require all students in public schools to do the same. Millions of Catholic students, families, school administrators, and teachers will be affected.
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