Obama Administration to Public Schools: Let Transgender Students Go to the Bathroom

The letter directs public schools to allow transgender students to go to the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Demonstrators protest the passage of North Carolina's bathroom restriction law. Skip Foreman/AP

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In a sweeping letter to be issued to school districts across the country on Friday, the Obama administration will direct public schools to allow transgender students to go to the bathrooms that match their gender identity, the New York Times reports.

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so,” according to an advance copy provided to the Times that will go out on Friday.

The notice comes in the middle of a contentious legal battle between the Justice Department and North Carolina over the state’s decision to restrict bathroom access according to the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate. Administration officials have said the state law amounted to a violation of civil rights, and federal agencies were exploring whether the North Carolina law could result in the loss of billions in federal funding. 

Courts have yet to settle on whether national anti-discrimination laws apply to gender identity. A federal appeals court decision in Virginia last month sided with Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy who was born female and wanted to use the boy’s bathroom at his high school, noting that he had a right to sue and that a lower court should reconsider his request to use the boy’s bathroom.

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