— -- The Departments of Justice and Education issued joint guidance to educators across the country today laying out the Obama administration’s interpretation of protections afforded to transgender students under federal law.
Addressed to “Dear Colleague,” the letter explains the federal government's stance when it comes to restrooms, locker rooms, athletics or same-sex classes -- namely, that public schools, colleges, universities and educational institutions receiving federal funding must allow transgender students to have access to facilities consistent with their gender identity.
The letter states this guidance “does not add requirements to applicable law” but provides information about how the Departments of Justice and Education will evaluate whether institutions covered under Title IX are in compliance with the law. Title IX is the law that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex.
“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement today. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies."
What This Means for North Carolina
North Carolina is now locked in litigation with the federal government over the state’s HB2 law, the so-called "bathroom bill," which requires people to use public bathroom facilities consistent with the sex stated on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity. The Justice Department issued letters to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety informing state officials that the HB2 law runs afoul of federal law. North Carolina responded by suing the Justice Department in federal court. The Justice Department fired back with a suit of its own.
Reaction to the guidance issued today was swift.
One Texas school administrator told KBMT12 News the guidance would go “straight to the shredder.”
Port Neches-Groves Superintendent Rodney Cavness told KBMT12 anchor Kevin Steele, "I got news for President Barack Obama. He ain't my president and he can't tell me what to do. ... He [President Obama] is destroying the very fiber of this country. He is not a leader. He is a failure."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said today his state will join North Carolina in the fight against the federal government.
Members of Congress also chimed in along party lines. An aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Speaker Ryan believes this is a state and local issue and the federal government should respect that.”
Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black railed against the guidance, calling it an “attempt to bully our locals into submission to the Obama Administration’s agenda” and a “gross abuse of the federal government’s power.”
Co-Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, voiced his support for the guidance. “Transgender students deserve to have their identities respected. This guidance will help ensure that transgender students are safe in their schools facilities. They will be able to focus on what's really important: getting an education," he said in a statement.
ABC News' Ben Siegel contributed to this report.