Federal court: No transgender bathrooms for now

Published 1:03 am Tuesday, August 23, 2016


A federal judge in Texas has blocked the Obama administration from enforcing new guidelines for transgender students issued in May, a ruling local superintendents say they expected all along.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas said his ruling should apply nationwide. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the ruling was the result of a suit he and officials from 10 other states filed in an effort to block the guidelines.

The U.S. District Court ruling allows schools in Alabama and nationwide to keep in place their current gender-based restroom and locker-room policies, Strange said Monday.

“The court decision is a victory for parents and children across Alabama,” Strange said. “I joined the multi-state lawsuit against the Obama administration in May to prevent Alabama schools from being forced to surrender their restroom access policies to social experiments in Washington. I am pleased the federal court has agreed to our request to stay the controversial order.”

In May, 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.

Among the administration’s requirements is to allow transgender students the use of restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, not their biological gender.

“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 a press release Friday. “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.”

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 at the time.

“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.”

On Monday, Smithart said he had not given much thought to the issue since the original directive was issued.

“It was inevitable there would be a legal challenge to this order, and we will await a final judgment from the court system prior to making any decisions,” he said. “We feel very strongly and are very confident in the manner in which we respect the rights and privacy of all of our students.”

Driver said he agreed.

“We will just stay tuned to see if there is any change that occurs when the court addresses the issue,” he said. “We anticipate no policy changes in the meantime.”