Duncan and Lhamon: Why We Must Protect Rights for Transgender Students

Today, in an op-ed published by the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon criticized the Trump administration’s decision to rescind guidance clarifying civil rights protections for transgender students — including directives allowing students to use school facilities corresponding with their gender identity. The action, taken by the current Secretary of Education and Attorney General earlier this week, “reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the federal role in protecting the civil rights of students,” Duncan and Llamon explain.

The Obama administration education officials go on to clarify that “on issues such as standards and curriculum, the federal government rightly defers to states and districts, but when it comes to protecting students, the law is clear: Civil rights are paramount. These are real issues affecting real people and carrying consequences every day for children in classrooms. They deserve better.”

The decision to rescind the civil rights guidance clarifying how transgender students are protected under Title IX, a 1972 law prohibiting federally funded schools from discriminating based on sex, has drawn widespread condemnation from elected officials, education and civil rights groups and even major corporations, including Apple.

Photo Credit: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

In a related Huffington Post article about the issue’s future before the U.S. Supreme Court, Rebecca Klein quotes 17-year-old transgender student Gavin Grimm, the plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit against his school district: “We all just want to be able to do well and succeed in school while still being able to be ourselves.” At Students Matter, we believe that every student — including students who identify as transgender — deserve to be free from discrimination in the classroom, in accordance with their right to quality public education.