The Washoe County School District did a good thing last month when it issued a statement clarifying that Trump’s reversal of federal guidelines aimed at protecting transgender students would have no effect on the school district’s policy.
Implemented in February 2015, the policy states: “Students shall have access to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity as expressed by the student and asserted at school, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records, including but not limited to locker rooms.”
On Feb. 22, Trump reversed an order issued by the Departments of Justice and Education’s respective civil rights divisions in May of 2016, under the Obama administration, which held that denying transgender students access to the bathrooms that match their gender identities constitutes sex discrimination under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. When the order was issued, the Department of Education cited WCSD’s policy as a model for other school districts.
During the early days of his campaign, Trump supported transgender people’s rights to use the bathrooms of their choice. In April 2016 he said, “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. … There has been so little trouble.”
He later changed his position on the issue—saying it was a states’ rights issue—after receiving pushback from conservatives. During a daily press briefing on the day Trump issued his reversal of the guidelines, Press Secretary Sean Spicer insinuated that Trump’s position had remained static, saying, “I’ve made this clear and the president’s made it clear throughout the campaign that he is a firm believer in states’ rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.”
Later that evening, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a statement pledging that the department’s Office For Civil Rights would remain “committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.” However, the Trump administration has yet to name someone to lead that division. Many believe the likeliest candidate is Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Heriot has accused the Office for Civil Rights of going beyond what Congress intended and has indicated her desire to curtail the Office for Civil Rights’ involvement in such efforts as curbing bullying and protecting LGBT students.
WCSD has taken steps on the path toward providing an equitable, safe environment for all students. We need to make sure this continues. One way is to write to Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez Masto and tell them not to confirm Heriot to lead the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Nevada Democratic Assemblymember Nelson Araujo has sponsored a bill that would require social workers and foster parents to take a two-hour, mandatory training to teach them about gender identity, using preferred pronouns and providing appropriate clothing. Call state legislators to express your support for this bill, too.