Trump White House rolls back transgender student policies

On Wednesday, the Trump White House rolled back a series of federal guidelines designed to protect transgender students.

“There must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy,” the federal departments of justice and education said in a joint letter Wednesday. (Here’s a link to the two-page letter, via

The debate over transgender policy centered largely on the use of school bathrooms, but the Obama administration’s guidelines included several other points.

The guidelines, released in May, called upon schools to allow students to use school facilities consistent with their gender identity. The guidelines also called upon schools to respond promptly to harassment, protect student privacy and treat students in accord with their gender identity, “even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex.”

Gov. Butch Otter and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra called the policies a federal overreach, and criticized the White House for linking the guidelines to federal Title IX funding. Idaho supported a federal lawsuit challenging the policies. In August, a federal judge blocked the Obama guidelines.

In Wednesday’s letter, the administration said the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would “hear all claims of discrimination,” as federal law requires.

“Withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment,” the letter said. “All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment.”

While the two federal agencies spoke with one voice Wednesday, both the Washington Post and the New York Times said the Trump Cabinet argued over the wording.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos initially resisted signing on to the letter, the New York Times reported. Trump sided with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who wanted to move quickly on this issue.

“DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along,” the Times reported.

More reading: How have Idaho schools addressed transgender issues? A closer look from May 2016.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday