The Department of Education said it will no longer investigate complaints brought by transgender students who say they are barred from the restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities that correspond to their gender identity but not biological sex.
Agency spokesperson Liz Hill told BuzzFeed News that those complaints are not covered under Title IX, the federal civil rights statute barring discrimination in education on the basis of sex.
“Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX,” Ms. Hill said. “In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”
Under President Barack Obama, the department issued an edict requiring public schools across the country to regulate intimate facilities on the basis of gender identity. Noncompliant schools risked losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the order in February of 2017.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by transgender high school student Gavin Grimm, who brought a discrimination suit against a Virginia school board that regulated restrooms on the basis of biological sex.
Gay-rights groups condemned the Education Department’s “reprehensible” stance.
“The department’s failure to act conflicts with the law in multiple jurisdictions, including federal circuits,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement, “and further emboldens those who seek to discriminate against transgender students.”