- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Three of Idaho’s top elected politicians are blasting the Obama administration directive that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.

Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said Friday that the recent announcement was another example of federal government overreach and disregard for states’ rights.

“We will explore every available option to ensure that the rights of all Idaho students are protected and that the citizens of Idaho maintain authority over our public education system,” Otter said in a prepared statement. “I do not believe this Washington, D.C. power play will withstand the legal challenges that are sure to come.”

Meanwhile, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and Lt. Gov. Brad Little echoed Otter’s criticisms. They both argued that important decisions should be left at the local level.

“The Obama administration’s disregard for local control in education removes the ability for local school administrators, school boards, teachers and parents to come up with solutions to these highly sensitive matters,” Little said in a statement.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice told states Friday that public schools must treat transgender students in a way that matches their identity, even if school records or identity documents list a different sex.

The guidance doesn’t impose new legal requirements, but it clarifies expectations for districts receiving federal funds.

“Shame on this administration for using our most vulnerable students and threatening the loss of Title I money in a time when funding for education is already a tense topic, especially for our over 70 percent rural school districts,” Ybarra said in a statement.

A 2015 report from The Associated Press found that just 15 public school districts in Idaho included LGBT non-discrimination policies in their educational practices. A separate 33 schools have anti-harassment policies that include gender identity and sexual orientation protections, but they speak only to hazing, bullying and threats.

While the Idaho School Board Association released proposed guidelines for the first time last year that focused primarily on transgender students, an AP review showed that many public schools districts had either rejected or declined to adopt them in conservative Idaho.

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