The Trump Administration Reportedly Can’t Agree on Treatment of Transgender Students

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A sign for gender-neutral restrooms at Santee High School in Los Angeles. Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Sean Spicer suggested that President Trump would issue “further guidance” on President Obama’s guidelines to public schools regarding transgender students. The guidelines, which took the form of a letter to every public-school district in the nation, were issued to protect trans students from discrimination by letting educators know what trans discrimination looks like and how to prevent it. According to Spicer, however, Trump believes the issue should be left to the states: “This is not something that the federal government should be involved in,” he said. “This is a states’-rights issue.”

But it seems not everyone in his administration feels the same. According to the New York Times, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resisted signing an order to rescind Obama’s guidelines and told Trump she was “uncomfortable” with it. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, pressed her, and when Trump sided with Sessions, DeVos acquiesced. But she and Sessions are reportedly still going back and forth over the language of Trump’s order, which is expected to be released this week.

According to the Times, a draft of the order cites the many states that have sued over Obama’s directives as a reason to scrap them. “School administrators, parents, and students have expressed varying views on the legal issues arising in this setting,” it reads. “They have also struggled to understand and apply the statements of policy and guidance.” DeVos reportedly asked that a line requiring schools to protect trans students from bullying be included: “Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment.”

When asked Wednesday why the Trump administration is making these guidelines a “priority,” Spicer cited the upcoming Supreme Court case in which a trans student — Gavin Grimm — sued his school board after they refused to let him use the boys’ restroom. That case is set to be heard next month, which means the Trump administration needs to decide where it stands, Spicer said. He added that DeVos is on board with Trump’s new order “100 percent.”

Trump didn’t bring up trans issues much during his campaign, except to say that North Carolina’s bathroom bill was “very strong” and that trans people should “use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate.” But as the Times points out, he’s beholden to the religious right — which means that, despite his personal beliefs, he’ll probably limit federal protections for LGBTQ people, preferring to leave such issues to the states.

Trump Appointees Are Fighting Over Rules for Trans Students