Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom guidance

VIDEO: The Trump administration on Wednesday night rescinded Obama-era guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.PlayABCNews.com
WATCH Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom guidance

The Trump administration on Wednesday night rescinded Obama-era guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

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In a letter sent to schools on Wednesday, the Justice and Education departments said the Obama administration's guidance — which cited Title IX — did not explain how it was consistent with the law.

The letter claimed that the directive caused confusion and lawsuits over its enforcement. Anti-bullying safeguards will not be affected, according to the letter.

"All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment," the letter reads.

Instead, the letter suggests that the states should take a "primary role" in establishing policy.

"As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level," the White House said in a statement, adding that today's letter "paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators."

Last April, Trump weighed in on the North Carolina "bathroom bill," HB2, which bars people from using public bathrooms or locker rooms that don't match the sex listed on their birth certificate.

State lawmakers should "leave it the way it is," Trump said in an interview with NBC, adding that people should "use the bathroom they feel is appropriate."

"We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate but a moral obligation," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — who has supported accommodations for transgender people — said in a statement Wednesday.

"Congress, state legislatures and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. " The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying and harassment."

Responding on Monday to early reports in the media about the Trump administration's reversal of the Obama-era rules regarding transgender people and bathrooms, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement, "Transgender young people face tragically high rates of discrimination and bullying, and they need a government that will stand up for them — not attack them."

And ACLU LGBT project director James Esseks said in a statement, "Revoking the guidance shows that the president's promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. The bottom line is that this does not undo legal protections for trans students ... School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we’ll see them in court."