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Trump Removes Rights for Transgender Students in Public Schools

President Trump rescinded rules enacted under the Obama administration in late February, removing federal bathroom protections for transgender students at public schools. Under Obama, the Justice Department and the Department of Education stated that under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, public schools could not discriminate students based on gender identity. Now under the Trump administration, bathroom rights can be decided on the state level.

While Title IX keeps schools from discriminating against students, it does not protect against student to student relations. With the bathroom change, transgender students are no longer guaranteed the right to select the bathroom in which they feel the most comfortable and safest. Opposition to transgender access to restrooms, in support of Trump’s decision, cite concerns of potential sexual assault or privacy issues for the other students.

Here at Suffolk, acting president Marisa Kelly has reached out to students through email informing the community that there will be no changes, and that the university will continue “its longtime commitment to welcome and create a safe and respectful environment for all students, staff, and faculty, regardless of their gender identity or expression.” This is a welcome notice, since according to Lambda Legal, a leading LGBT+ legal nonprofit, “more than a third of TGNC [transgender or non-conforming] students said that they seriously considered leaving their institution because of the challenging climate.”

James Esseks, the LGBT project director of the ACLU said in a statement that, “Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. But the bottom line is that this does not undo legal protections for trans students, and school districts can and must continue to protect them and all students from discrimination. School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we’ll see them in court.”

Roughly two hundred people gathered outside the White House after the decision to protest the change, chanting “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.” Signs held featured slogans such as “fight back for trans students,” and “I am not a threat.” As for the White House itself, Trump has decided to keep the all-gender bathroom that was put in place under Obama.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student from Gloucester, Virginia spoke during the rally and encouraged people, saying “No matter what happens, no one, not even the government can defeat a community so full of life, color, diversity, and most importantly, love.”

The question surrounding transgender access to bathrooms may be resolutely answered by the Supreme Court later this year, as Grimm’s own case is scheduled for oral arguments at the end of the month.

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