Rep. Black: Administration ‘Now Directly Responsible for Endangering Our Students’

By Lauretta Brown | May 13, 2016 | 3:51pm EDT
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) (AP Photo)

( – Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) reacted to guidance issued Friday by the Obama administration that public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their “gender identity” - not their biological sex - if they expect to receive federal funding.

Black called the Dear Colleague letter from the Department of Education and Department of Justice an “attempt to bully our local schools into submission to the Obama Administration’s agenda” and added that she believed “the Obama Administration is now directly responsible for endangering our students.”

“This attempt to bully our local schools into submission to the Obama Administration’s agenda is shameful and a gross abuse of the federal government’s power,” Black said in a statement. “It has nothing to do with compassion for minority student populations and everything to do with political opportunism for the next election.

“We all agree on the rights of students to be treated with dignity and respect,” Black emphasized, “but that right must also exist alongside the rights of students to maintain their privacy and safety in their own schools.”

Black added that as a grandmother of young girls, she believes “the Obama Administration is now directly responsible for endangering our students.”

“It is worth noting that this directive does not carry the force of law and I would encourage Tennessee school officials to continue following their consciences,” she said.

“When our appropriations bills come to the House floor,” Black concluded, “I plan to introduce an amendment barring the Department of Education from withholding funds from states that pass commonsense legislation protecting our children from sharing a bathroom with students of the opposite sex.”

Black was joined by many of her Republican colleagues in the House in criticizing the new guidance.

"I oppose that piece of policy. I think ... it is an executive overreach," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Friday, adding that “it's a topic we're likely to bring up in a future hearing before the task force that I chair,” referring to the House Task Force on Executive Overreach.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), an outspoken critic of the Department of Education, also issued a statement condemning the DOE guidance, calling it “another example of how they have continued to create law out of thin air with Dear Colleague letters, threats and intimidation.”

“The proposal in today's guidance is so significant and groundbreaking, it should only be considered by legislation, preferably at the local level, instead of through a Department of Education guidance letter,” Lankford said.

“Even though the Department will say that guidance does not have the force of law, every school district in the country will be terrified of going against a federal agenda. This is threatening and intimidating and has no place in our government,” he said.

Lankford said that the proposal “has many unintended consequences for safety and gender fairness, which are completely being ignored in this conversation.”

“This type of policy change has major implications for safety, the use of school locker rooms, and participation of sports teams in school,” Lankford added. “No student should feel unwelcome at school, but we cannot ignore the fact that this policy will make the majority of American families unwelcome in their own school.

“The people of Oklahoma are welcoming to all, but they deserve the right to make their own choices on how to honor and protect each child," he added.

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