Saturday 20 January 2018

Obama transgender bathroom guidance a 'huge example' of overreach, says DeVos

Members of the National Centre for Transgender Equality protest in front of the White House (AP)
Members of the National Centre for Transgender Equality protest in front of the White House (AP)

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has defended the Trump administration's decision to rescind public-school bathroom rules for transgender students.

Transgender students have lost the government protection that allowed them to use school toilets and locker rooms matching their gender identities.

The administration came down on the side of states' rights, lifting the Barack Obama-era national guidelines characterised by Republicans as an example of overreach.

Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to bathrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.

Speaking at a gathering of conservative activists near Washington, Ms DeVos said: " This was a huge example of the Obama administration's overreach."

She said the guidance was "one-size fits all" and "top-down", adding her approach is to put as much control as possible into state, local and parental hands.

Ms DeVos said she wants to provide more flexibility on how education is delivered and experienced.

She also said that, with Mr Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress, conservatives now have a "unique window of opportunity" to expand school choice programmes.

The reversal is a setback for transgender rights groups, which had been urging Mr Trump to keep the guidelines in place.

Advocates say federal law will still ban discrimination against students based on their gender or sexual orientation, but lifting the Obama directive still puts children in harm's way.

"Reversing this guidance tells trans kids that it's OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans," said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.

Activists protested against the move on Wednesday outside the White House.


Press Association

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