Idaho plans to back lawsuit over transgender student policy

(UPDATED, 4:08 p.m., with details from Otter’s office.)

Texas is filing a lawsuit over the Obama administration’s transgender student guidelines.

Ten other states are supporting the lawsuit, Reuters reported Wednesday. Idaho was not on that initial list, but will support the Texas lawsuit.

Gov. Otter1
Gov. Butch Otter has called the transgender student policies a “Washington, D.C., power play.”

“We still plan to participate and are working on an amicus brief in support of the states listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit,” Mark Warbis, a spokesman for Gov. Butch Otter, said Wednesday afternoon.

An “amicus” brief, known also as a “friend of the court” brief, expresses support for one side in a lawsuit.

Otter’s office will prepare the brief without hiring outside counsel, and the cost of the filing will come from the governor’s office budget, Warbis said.

The transgender policies — called “guidance” by administration officials — came under almost immediate criticism after their May 13 release.

Hinting at a lawsuit, Otter said the state would “explore every available option” to oppose the administration’s guidelines. At the time, Otter predicted the guidelines would not withstand a legal challenge.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra and Lt. Gov. Brad Little joined Otter in criticizing the guidelines, maintaining that these issues are best addressed by local school officials.

Under the federal guidelines, schools are expected to allow students to use restrooms and other school facilities “consistent with their gender identity.” The guidelines also call for protecting the privacy of transgender students, and for treating students Schools must treat students consistent with their gender identity, “even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex.”

While controversial, the Obama administration’s language on restroom use mirrors guidelines drafted last summer by the Idaho School Boards Association.

According to Reuters, Texas was joined in the suit by Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Lousiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Coming Thursday: How are Idaho schools accommodating transgender students? We take a closer look.

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]

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