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U.S. Education Secretary Condemns Harmful Anti-Trans Laws in Mississippi and North Carolina

by Hayley Miller May 03, 2016

Yesterday, U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. spoke out against the discriminatory legislation signed into law in North Carolina and Mississippi, urging state legislatures to repeal these laws.

"My hope is legislators will realize they've made a terrible mistake," he said. “They’re hateful laws and should be repealed.”

In March, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law an outrageous and unprecedented anti-LGBT bill that eliminates existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people; prevents such provisions from being passed by cities in the future; and forces transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity, putting 4.5 billion dollars in federal funding under Title IX at risk.

Weeks later, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law H.B. 1523, which allows individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at schools, and in their communities.

North Carolina school districts that comply with the law will now be in direct violation of Title IX, subjecting the school districts to massive liability and putting an estimated $4.5 billion of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as funding received by schools from other federal agencies, at risk. This section of HB 2 offers costly supposed solutions to non-existent problems, and it forces schools to choose between complying with federal law -- plus doing the right thing for their students -- or complying with a state law that violates students’ civil rights. Read more about how this bill puts federal funding at risk here.

"I don’t want to get ahead of enforcement actions we may take in regards to North Carolina and Mississippi," he added.

Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 as protecting transgender students from discrimination, including allowing them to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The ruling came in the case of Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old high school student and transgender teen, whose lawsuit against Virginia’s Gloucester County School District alleges the district violated Title IX by denying him use of the boy’s restroom.

While these laws continue to be debated in North Carolina and Mississippi, Chicago Public Schools announced new guidelines today to support and protect transgender students, employees and adults. The inclusive guidelines “ensure CPS schools are safe, welcoming environments for everyone in the school community.”

The CPS guidance is an important step forward, but it is clear that many schools around the country do not understand their obligations under Title IX.  It is now more important than ever that the Department of Education issue clear, comprehensive guidance detailing how Title IX protects transgender and gender nonconforming students across all aspects of the educational environment.  

Looking to support transgender students? Download Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools -- a first-of-its-kind resource from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and partnering organizations that provides a blueprint for safe, supportive and inclusive school environments for transgender youth.

Hayley Miller
Hayley Miller


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