By Nicole Belair, Staff Writer
As if President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t received enough criticism over the past month, the president has officially reversed protections for transgender students in public schools.
This decision rescinds Obama’s policy requiring that schools allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The guidelines that Obama issued last year required school officials to enforce this protection for transgender students under the Title IX law, which intends to defend students from gender discrimination. According to NPR, the penalty for not following the guidelines was a risk of losing federal funds. As more than 150,000 people between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender, I believe that Obama was trying to do everything in his power to protect these kids from bullying and violence and ensure their safety and comfort at school.
But just this past week, President Trump and his administration have completely withdrawn Obama’s rule on transgender students’ bathroom use. The Education and Justice departments stated that local and state governments should decide what policies to enforce regarding transgender rights, not the federal government.
Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos stated, “this is an issue best solved at the state and local level…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.”
Secretary DeVos, this decision should not be a state issue. This reversal of Obama’s guidance is a direct attack on the protection of transgender students.
I think House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s statement was on target, as she explained that this move shows that President Trump can’t be trusted to defend the rights of LGBT Americans. She also stated, “Withdrawing the historic guidance from the Obama Administration to protect transgender students is a cruel blow to an already vulnerable group of young people.”
Although many have been critical of Trump’s decision, others have been supportive of the president’s actions. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed, “Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change.” I’d like to know, what is so radical about equal rights? What is so wrong with being supporters and allies?
Trump promised to protect LGBTQ Americans, yet he has already done the complete opposite. This decision is a step backward for our country, after Obama worked hard for equal rights and equal protection for all Americans. Under Obama’s administration, gay marriage was legalized in all fifty states and transgender people were offered more support than ever.
I think if there’s one downside to Obama’s guidance, it is the fact that his Title IX guidelines were put in place so late in his second term. Obama enacted the policy over the summer, only for the new administration to retract it just a few months later. I wish he had more time to establish the guidelines so that they might have been more accepted or supported by the time Trump got into office.
The statement that our university received from Interim Chancellor Helm on this subject stressed the importance of providing a safe environment for all students. “The University considers transgender rights to be human rights,” Helm stated, “and remains fully committed to supporting transgender students, staff, and faculty.”
As our country moves forward, I can only hope that other schools, as well as local and state governments will share the same encouragement and strive to protect our transgender youth.