Barack Obama changes bathroom rules across the country in public schools

"All Gender Restroom" sign outside a bathroom. Confrontations have flared across the country over whether to protect or curtail the right of transgender people to use public restrooms in accordance with their gender identity. (AP Photo) Photo credit: http://binaryapi.ap.org/

  By Mireya Aguilar  ’16

 

On May 13, President Barack Obama’s administration teamed up with the Department of Education and Department of Justice to send out a letter that created guidelines for all U.S. public schools to follow. According to the new guidelines in the letter, schools must allow for transgenders to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The letter was in response to many questions being asked by parents, teachers, and school superintendents over the past couple of years about the rights of transgender students and has been in work for over a couple of months.

 The departments created this guidance to make sure schools follow obligations over the Title IX’s protection of transgender students. According to the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 , “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Michael Jasso, a senior, is finally relieved that the community around him can “fit in as who they truly identified as.” Jasso continues on the idea we are moving in the right direction, “I am now confident that we, as a country, are moving forward to accepting people who are different.”

Karina Alvarez, also a senior, believes the new guidelines are a step towards equality. She is for letting transgender students feel comfortable and safe including in bathrooms. Alvarez argues the bathrooms should be used for its sole purpose: a private time to do their duties. Therefore, people shouldn’t worry about “who is and isn’t in the bathroom with them.”

John King, Jr., U.S. Secretary of Education, stated, “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.”

There are some, however, disagreement that came with the new guidelines from students and parents. Brian Gomez, a sophomore, at first, felt strongly against the idea of this new rule. Gomez supports the transgender community, but this bathroom rule causes for some fear. He feels this bathroom rule could be sabotaged by students to commit sexual assaults or take this rule as a joke.

There is no force in the law. However, the schools who receive federal funding, which includes over 16,500 school districts and 7,000 colleges and universities, that do not follow the guidelines may face lawsuits and maybe even a loss of federal aid.

The country already split in two after North Carolina created the House Bill 2 on March 23 this year, which forces people to use the bathrooms according to the gender they were assigned at birth.

The dispute only continued on after the Department of Justice and North Carolina sued each other over the bathroom law. However, this case did not stop the Obama administration and Department of Education and Justice from releasing the letter only days after the lawsuits.