While the federal government withdrew its bathroom guidelines for transgender students, city students can rest assured the public school system will protect them.
The federal guidance was first set by former President Barack Obama in May 2016 and allowed students to choose which restroom they wanted to use based on their chosen gender identities. On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the guidelines were being removed from Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law, because of a lack of sufficient legal analysis.
But New York City has had guidelines in place since 2014, stating that a “transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity,” according to the Department of Education.
“The DOE’s Transgender Guidelines have been in place since 2014 and remain in effect in all NYC public schools,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement. “We are dedicated to ensuring every student is provided with a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment in all school buildings, and that includes allowing students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.”
On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state’s Education Department should issue a directive to all schools, assuring students that their rights and protections will remain unchanged in New York.
“The misguided action taken by the federal government last night runs contrary to the New York Promise of individual freedoms. With the stroke of a pen, they seek to move this country backwards,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In New York, whether you are gay, straight or transgender, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people — and we will continue to enforce our laws and stand united against those who seek to drive us apart.”
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, along with the state’s Education commissioner, reminded school districts of their “independent duties under state and local law to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment.”
“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “But in New York State, the law remains the law — and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Wednesday that the city will “affirm the right of every New Yorker to use the bathroom that fits their identity. A new president will not change our values.”
The sentiment was echoed by the city’s Commission on Human Rights, as Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis vowed the agency will “use every tool at its disposal to protect” against discrimination.
“Every New Yorker has the legal right to use bathrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity and expression, no questions asked,” Malalis said in a statement.
NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said while it is clear that New York protects the rights of transgender students, it is important to strengthen existing protections.