Harris Beach Legal Alert Regarding Accommodations for Transgender Students
Feb 24, 2017
On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice issued a Dear Colleague Letter withdrawing two groundbreaking statements of policy and guidance which were issued on January 7, 2015 (Letter to Emily Prince, Esq.) and May 13, 2016 (Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students). According to the January 2015 and May 2016 guidance, Title IX was interpreted to require access to sex-segregated facilities based on gender identity. As such, school districts were advised, among other recommendations, to allow all students to access restrooms/locker rooms based on their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.
There are a number of pending lawsuits regarding the January 2015 and May 2016 guidance and, in particular, the requirements to allow access to single-sex facilities on the basis of gender identity. Perhaps most significant is the case of Gloucester County School Board v. GG, which is scheduled for oral argument at the Supreme Court on March 28, 2017. The Supreme Court will determine whether a public school district that receives federal funds is required under Title IX to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in terms of access to sex-segregated facilities such as locker rooms and bathrooms. It is unclear how the Department’s decision to withdraw and rescind the previous guidance documents will impact the ultimate outcome of the Gloucester case or other pending legal challenges.