The Trump administration is slated to abandon the Obama administration's guidance on how public schools accommodate their transgender students. The new order has reportedly caused a schism between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
On Feb. 22, a draft document of the Trump's administration's new guidance on transgender student rights was obtained by reporters. The new order rescinds the Obama administration's directive that public schools cannot force transgender students to use public restrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity.
The Obama administration issued the guidance in May 2016, mandating that public schools accommodate their transgender students or lose federal funding under Title IX. The new guidance, issued jointly by the Trump Justice and Education departments, will leave the issue of transgender rights to the discretion of public schools.
The Obama administration's guidance could be revoked as soon as Feb. 22.
"We are hearing that it will be rescinded today," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Reuters.
The draft of the new order asserts that the original guidance had met legal pushback from several states and had sown confusion in public schools.
"School administrators, parents and students have expressed varying views on the legal issues arising in this setting," the letter states. "They have also struggled to understand and apply the statements of policy and guidance."
Three sources familiar with the new order told The New York Times that DeVos and Sessions had disagreed over rescinding the Obama guidance. Sessions wanted the guidance revoked while DeVos was allegedly uncomfortable with the new directive, citing the high suicide rate among transgender students.
Both Cabinet officials had to consent to the new directive. President Donald Trump purportedly sided with Sessions and urged DeVos to sign off on the order. DeVos relented, but asked that the new order include a provision that public schools must protect their students from bullying.
Trump's decision to rescind the Obama guidance marks a shift from his stance on transgender bathroom rights during the Republican primary. In April 2016, Trump had criticized a North Carolina bathroom law that had prohibited transgender people from using bathrooms that did not correspond with the gender on their birth certificate.
"People go, they use the bathroom they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble," Trump told Today.
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education; whether it also applies to gender has been argued in the courts. It could receive its answer in a Supreme Court case slated for March. The case involves transgender student Gavin Grimm, who sued the Gloucester County School Board for diverting him from the boys' bathroom to using a janitor's closet converted into a bathroom.