Betsy DeVos won’t help trans students access the right bathrooms

A DOE spokesperson said "separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”

The Department of Education will no longer take action on complaints by transgender students whose schools stop them from using bathrooms that align with their identity, BuzzFeed News reported Monday.

Over the past year, the Trump administration has repeatedly walked back rights and protections for transgender Americans, including reversing a policy that protected transgender individuals from workplace discrimination and trying to stop transgender people from serving in the military. Last February, the Education Department also revoked an Obama-era “Dear Colleague” letter, which had sought to clarify protections for transgender students under the anti-discrimination Title IX policy.


But the Education Department has repeatedly stopped short of saying it wouldn’t get involved in fights over transgender students’ right to use the correct bathroom. Until Monday.

When BuzzFeed News asked if the Education Department believes Title IX doesn’t grant transgender students that right, spokesperson Liz Hill told the outlet, “Yes, that’s what the law says.”

“Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity,” Hill said. “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. 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.”

However, as BuzzFeed News points out, two U.S. circuit courts have found that, in fact, transgender students likely did have a civil right to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. Hill did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ requests for clarification on how the Education Department’s position aligned with these rulings.

The Department of Education didn’t immediately reply to a VICE News request for comment.