Obama administration to issue decree on transgender access to school restrooms

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The Obama administration plans to issue a letter to all public school districts in the United States to instruct them to allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity, the New York Times reports.

The newspaper reported late on Thursday that the letter will go out on Friday, telling school districts what to do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against. The letter is signed by officials from both the Justice Department and the Department of Education.

Although the letter does not have the force of law, it contains an implicit threat to public schools that ignore the government’s instructions. Those schools would risk lawsuits and a loss of federal aid, the New York Times reported.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” Education Secretary John King, Jr. said in a statement to the newspaper. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

The move comes amidst a legal dispute involving the state of North Carolina, which obligates transgender students at public schools and universities to use only bathrooms that match their biological sex. The state law, which also prohibits local anti-discrimination ordinances, led to widespread controversy.

The U.S. Justice Department said earlier this month that North Carolina’s state law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

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