DOJ/ED: Students Still Protected Against Discrimination, Bullying, Harassment

Susan Jones | February 23, 2017 | 6:16am EST
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The Trump administration says students will still be protected against discrimination, bullying and harassment despite the lifting of the Obama administration's transgender guidance. (AP File Photo)

( – In a two-page letter announcing the withdrawal of the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender students, the Departments of Justice and Education said they will continue to protect all students:

Please note that this withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment. All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear all claims of discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students and to encourage civility in our classrooms. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice are committed to the application of Title IX and other federal laws to ensure such protection.

The letter says the Trump administration believes that the states and local school districts have the “primary role” in establishing educational policy, including who uses which restroom.

(The change in policy will have no immediate impact on students, since a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Obama administration's guidance in August.)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a message of her own, after reportedly disagreeing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to lift the Obama administration’s transgender guidance:

She said protecting all students, including LGBT students, is a priority for her:

Here is the full text of DeVos’s letter:

We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate. At my direction, the Department's Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.

The guidance issued by the previous administration has given rise to several legal questions. As a result, a federal court in August 2016 issued a nationwide injunction barring the Department from enforcing a portion of its application. Since that time, the Department has not enforced that part of the guidance, thus there is no immediate impact to students by rescinding this guidance.

This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.

I have dedicated my career to advocating for and fighting on behalf of students, and as Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.

We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

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