How Trump’s Order To Drop Obama-Era Transgender Student Guidelines Affects Colo. Schools

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Photo: Coy Mathis Capitol News Conference, June 2013 - AP
Attorney Michael Silverman holds hands with Coy Mathis as he speaks at the Capitol in Denver, June 24, 2013. Standing with Coy is her mother Kathryn Mathis, father Jeremy Mathis and other siblings. The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled in favor of six-year-old Coy Mathis, whose school had barred her from using the girls’ bathroom at her school because she is transgender.

Who can use what bathroom is once again in the political spotlight.

Earlier this week, the White House announced it’s revoking an Obama-era directive, citing legal confusion. The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a joint guidance last year. It told public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The directive stated that under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, "schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student's sex, including a student's transgender status."

In a statement, U.S. education secretary Betsy Devos said rescinding the guidance will not affect anti-bullying measures protecting transgender students. Those will remain in place.

What does this all mean for Colorado schools that receive public funding though?

The short answer: it might not change much. Colorado transgender students are already allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. That's because in 2008, Colorado state lawmakers passed legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, which includes schools. And many school districts, including Boulder Valley School District, have committed to policies and practices that support transgender youth in their school systems.

That doesn't mean the move by the current administration hasn't raised concern in Colorado. Daniel Ramos, executive director of the statewide LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado, says he's worried the new guidance could make transgender students vulnerable to bullying and discrimination. Jeff Hunt sees this differently. Hunt is the vice president of public policy at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood and directs the university's conservative think tank, the Centennial Institute. Hunt says the Obama Administration directive was federal government overreach. In 2014, when the Obama Administration clarified that transgender students were protected under Title IX, CCU was one of more than 200 faith-based schools that filed for an exemption from that. That exemption was granted last summer.

Ramos and Hunt spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.

Here are some interview highlights. Click the audio above to listen to the full conversation.

Ramos on the impacts of revoking the Obama Administration guidance:

"I think that the... impacts of rescinding the guidance are much more than just practical. It really sends a message from [the Trump] administration that transgender young people and their safety in schools doesn't in fact matter. The Trump Administration vowed to protect LGBT people during the campaign. And this is just another example of him turning his back on a community that he promised to protect. Here in Colorado, we want to protect our most vulnerable young people."

Hunt on why he felt the Obama-era directive was overreach:

"We felt that that Title IX that was passed in 1972, for the Obama Administration to make that switch -- to go from sex to gender identity as a discerning aspect -- was unfair. This is a states' rights issue. We've seen that, in 2008, Colorado was able to debate that issue. And that's important. You have to involve parents, teachers and local school boards in this discussion. What the Obama Administration did was unilaterally side on the side of transgender students without taking in any consideration the thoughts of parents, teachers or local school boards."

Related: A Colorado Family's Fight For Transgender Rights Is Documented In 'Growing Up Coy'