Buzzfeed News first reported yesterday that the Department of Education has finally taken an official position that it will not field or investigate complaints from transgender students facing discrimination at school.
More specifically, the department will not support transgender students who have been denied access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
In a dramatic reversal of the Obama administration's interpretation of the law, the Department of Education says Title IX of the Civil Rights Act does not apply to gender identity.
For the past three weeks, BuzzFeed News called and emailed Education Department officials attempting to pinpoint the agency’s position.
Finally on Thursday, Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, responded “yes, that’s what the law says” when asked again if the Education Department holds a current position that restroom complaints from transgender students are not covered by a 1972 federal civil rights law called Title IX.
Asked for further explanation on the department’s position, Hill said Friday, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”
Officially, words have no meaning at the Education Department.
Sex and gender are literally the same thing and, indeed, that has been the interpretation of courts that have heard cases challenging bans on transgender bathroom use. The Education Department's position does not change the law, it simply means transgender students do not have an ally in the federal government that will challenge school districts that discriminate.
Department spokesperson Liz Hill also added that "separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX," which is accurate, but the department's official position is that transgender girls and boys do not count as girls or boys.
At a fundamental level, the Betsy DeVos Department of Education does not recognize transgender girls and boys as legitimate or deserving of civil rights.