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The Department of Education will not take action on civil rights complaints filed by transgender students blocked from using the bathroom matching their gender identity, BuzzFeed News reported Monday.
The website quoted department spokeswoman Liz Hill, who said it was the Education Department's position that bathroom complaints are not covered by Title IX. But Hill in an email said "there is nothing new here" and that the department's position has been that gender identity isn't covered by Title IX since Secretary Betsy DeVos last year withdrew Obama administration guidelines issued to protect the rights of transgender students.
The guidelines were issued to ensure those students had access to bathrooms and other facilities of their choice, but DeVos argued those issues were best handled at the state level and said the guidance had given rise to legal disputes over the issue.
A memo from acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson to regional officials last June clarified that investigators should continue to evaluate complaints for sex discrimination under Title IX, whether or not an individual was transgender. That document did not, however, mention whether access to bathrooms matching a student's gender identity would fall under the type of complaint officials should investigate.
Hill's statement to BuzzFeed clarifies that the department does not necessarily consider access to bathrooms based on gender identity a civil rights issue under Title IX.
“Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX,” Hill told the site. “In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”