AG to schools: Ignore feds

Published 2:06 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In response to numerous inquiries from educators about the recent federal “significant guidance letter” on school restroom access for transgender students, Attorney General Luther Strange has written the Alabama State Board of Education with his view of the legality of the federal directive.

Attorney General Strange told the State Board of Education the federal guidance letter is an attempt to rewrite federal law and should therefore be ignored until the issue is settled in federal court.

“Although the (federal guidance) letter states that it ‘does not add requirements to applicable law,’ it clearly purports to change the law by redefining the word ‘sex’ in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to mean ‘gender identity,’” Attorney General Strange wrote.

“…Title IX is about discrimination ‘on the basis of sex,’ not gender identity.”

“On May 25, I filed suit on behalf of Alabama, along with officials from ten other States, to prevent the Department of Justice and Department of Education from enforcing the guidance letter. This lawsuit will determine whether the Department of Justice and Department of Education have the authority to implement the policy announced in the guidance… Until the lawsuit is resolved, I would encourage educators to simply ignore the guidance letter.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a joint statement with guidelines to schools to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”

The guidance came to public schools after an uproar in North Carolina about transgender people using bathrooms of the gender in which they identify, after a law was passed that requires bathroom use to be determined by the gender of which a person is born.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson, Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver and Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart released a combined statement on the matter.

“As many of you have heard through local and national media sources, the United States Department of Education and United States Department of Justice issued guidance this morning regarding the proper treatment of transgender students in our public schools. We want to assure our students, parents and community stakeholders that our goal today is the same as it was yesterday: to provide a safe, supportive and respectful environment for all of our students so that they are able to learn to their full potential.

We are carefully reviewing the guidance to determine what, if any, changes are needed to be considered moving forward.

After close consultation with legal counsel and others representing public school interests, should any change be needed in our programs, policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the law, we will give our students, parents and community clear and ample notice.”