Friday, July 8, 2016

South Carolina joins suit over transgender student policies

10 states file complaint

Posted by Dustin Waters on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 4:32 PM

click to enlarge Students, advocates, and parents made passionate pleas during recent Berkeley County School Board meetings regarding the rights of transgender students - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Students, advocates, and parents made passionate pleas during recent Berkeley County School Board meetings regarding the rights of transgender students
South Carolina joined nine other states Friday in formally challenging the federal government over rules that allow transgender students to use public restrooms according to their gender identity. The coalition of states opposing the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice filed an action in Nebraska federal court challenging the government’s recent Title IX decision that prohibits schools receiving federal money to discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in May following the release of federal guidelines for protecting the civil rights of transgender students. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies. I look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Education — and with schools across the country — to create classroom environments that are safe, nurturing, and inclusive for all of our young people.”

Joining South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson in opposition of the government’s mandate, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson released a statement after the announcement of the multi-state federal complaint, saying that the government mandate supersedes local school districts’ authority to address student issues on an individual and private basis. He added, “When a federal agency takes such unilateral action in an attempt to change the meaning of established law, it is incumbent upon those who want to maintain the rule of law to pursue legal clarity in federal court in order to enforce the rule of law.”

The issue of which public facilities transgender students should be allowed to use has been a matter of debate over the last school year among Lowcountry districts. Last month, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that it had entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with Dorchester County School District Two, after finding the district in violation of Title IX for discriminating against a transgender elementary school student. Transgender students, LGBT advocates, and concerned parents packed Berkeley County School Board meetings this spring to discuss the decision to allow students to use the restrooms for the gender with which they identify on a case-by-case basis.

Melissa Moore, executive director of local LGBT nonprofit We Are Family, responded to news of the complaint by stating, “Instead of addressing the very real issues facing people in our state, South Carolina leaders are wasting time and money suing the federal government over recent rules that ensure transgender students are able to use facilities that respect their gender identities. There are real people behind this debate and rhetoric — kids who are being bullied and even assaulted in bathrooms and school hallways across the country.”

Moore added, “This lawsuit is an embarrassment to our state and completely unnecessary. There have been no problems reported with transgender kids using the appropriate facilities.”

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