Bryant, Metro-area school districts comment on transgender bathroom access in schools

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration is telling public schools that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The directive is in formal guidance being sent to school districts Friday by the departments of Education and Justice.

The letter does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say the guidance is meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

It comes amid a legal fight between the Justice Department and North Carolina over that state’s law on bathroom use by transgender people. The state and the federal government sued each other on Monday.

The U.S. Department of Justice released the letter on its website. It explains that under  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.  The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.

Gov. Bryant commented on the guidelines:

This is the most outrageous example yet of the Obama administration forcing its liberal agenda on states that roundly reject it. Public schools’ restroom policies should not be shaped by federal coercion.

He also tweeted about it.

The Mississippi Department of Education also released a statement about the guidelines.

A safe and caring school environment is critical to a student’s ability to learn and achieve. The Mississippi Department of Education will adhere to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as the joint guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.

WJTV 12 reached out to 7 Metro-area school districts for their response to the directive. A spokesperson for Jackson Public Schools told WJTV 12 that they would follow the recommendations of MDE. A revenue report for 2014-2015 on the MDE website shows JPS received about 18% of its budget from federal money. That’s $50 million out of a total budget of $279 million.

Compare that to Madison County School District. Federal funds make up just over 6% of their budget. In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Ronnie McGehee said, “Madison County Schools works diligently to provide a first class educational system for the families of Madison County. Rest assured, as we end the 2015-16 school year, you will not see changes to current policy.”

According to the 2014-15 report, Rankin County Schools get about 8.5% of its budget from federal funds. In a statement, a district spokesperson said, “The Rankin County School District will continue our current procedures, based on the law, until further interpretation by our attorneys and school board.”

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