The White House is planning to reverse guidelines issued in 2016 by former President Barack Obama's administration that required public schools to allow transgender students to use their bathroom of choice.
Speaking at a press conference on Feb. 21, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to go into details regarding the new guidelines, but said President Donald Trump believes it to be a states' rights issue.
"I think that all you have to do is look at what the president's view has been for a long time, that this is not something the federal government should be involved in, this is a states' rights issue," he said, according to Fox News.
The Obama directive was issued in May 2016 and stipulated that transgender students have a right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, regardless of their sex at birth. His administration argued that transgender people are protected by the sex discrimination measures in federal funding under Title IX, according to The New York Times.
Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division under Obama, said plans to roll back transgender protections may encourage discrimination.
"To cloak this in federalism ignores the vital and historic role that federal law plays in ensuring that all children, (including LGBT students) are able to attend school free from discrimination," she wrote in an email.
The National Center for Transgender Equality issued a statement condemning Trump's move as an "attack" on transgender students.
"Such clear action directed at children would be a brazen and shameless attack on hundreds of thousands of young Americans who must already defend themselves against schoolyard bullies, but are ill-equipped to fight bullies on the floors of their state legislatures and in the White House," they wrote, according to Fox News.
During the presidential campaign, Trump held firm to his belief that the issue should be decided at the state level, telling "Fox & Friends" in May that Obama's directive had become a "massive story" that only impacted a "tiny, tiny" percentage of Americans.
"I think that local communities and states should make the decision," he said at the time. "And I feel very strongly about that. The federal government should not be involved."
Fifteen states currently have laws in place to protect transgender students from discrimination. North Carolina is the only state that has implemented a law prohibiting transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
In addition to the new guidelines, the Trump administration is expected to give its position on a Supreme Court case initiated by a transgender boy in Virginia who was denied access to the boys' bathroom at school, The New York Times reports.