Yet another reversal of an Obama era policy is now in place and it probably sounds like a smart move to many conservatives, but may cause additional trouble down the line. The subject in question is the Department of Education policy enacted under the previous administration which expanded the concept of sex or gender to include “transgender” for purposes of Title IX protections. Going further, this bizarre and unscientific interpretation used the prospect of cuts to federal education funding as a cudgel against schools, forcing them to allow boys access to the girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. Numerous complaints from students and families ensued, leading to a laundry list of court cases around the country.
Now, with the stroke of the pen (which is how it was implemented in the first place), the policy has been reversed and the DoE will no longer be investigating these complaints. (Daily Caller)
After much speculation pertaining to the Trump administration’s official policy on transgender restroom policies, a White House spokeswoman indicated that the U.S. Department of Education won’t investigate any complaints regarding transgender restroom policies.
Spokeswoman Liz Hill told BuzzFeed News that specific kinds of transgender complaints may be investigated, but no bathroom complaints will garner the Department of Education’s (DOE) scrutiny.
“Long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX,” Hill said, explaining that the DOE will continue investigating sex-based stereotypes and sex discrimination against transgender individuals, but will not devote resources to the slew of transgender bathroom cases.
From the perspective of doing what’s right for the students and the schools this sounds like an admirable approach. If any students are being bullied or abused based on how they look, how they dress, or even their “belief” as to what their gender is, that should be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable. But the Department of Education is not and should not be in the business of redefining the English language or overruling medical science. Also, the privacy and safety of all the rest of the students can’t be impacted because of the beliefs of a few children who are either misguided or legitimately suffering from gender dysphoria.
In terms of the long game, however, simply rolling back the previous policy as if it were never put in place doesn’t solve the underlying challenge. We’ve already seen instances where a lawsuit challenging a particular school policy was dropped without any final resolution when the original policy was eliminated. (See the case of Gavin Grimm.) If we have one administration pencil-whipping such reckless policies into place, only to have them disappear when someone new moves into the Oval Office, the courts will never have the opportunity to address the deeper, underlying questions. That means that the next Democratic president could simply rewrite the instructions yet again, starting the whole, tragic circus show over from scratch.
We really do need the courts to weigh in and make a final decision to establish some precedent on this. They need to determine whether politicians and school administrations have the authority to overwrite medical science and restructure our language to suit their political goals. Further, the courts should clarify whether we can still expect a fundamental level of privacy and modesty for the actual genders when it comes to publicly accessible facilities, as has been our tradition from the beginning.