Nearly 800 parents of transgender children from across the country signed a letter to President Trump imploring him to maintain protections for transgender students, saying that the protections, enacted under President Barack Obama, are critical for the safety and well-being of their children.
“All students deserve equal access to a safe, welcoming school and a high quality education no matter who they are and where they live,” the parents wrote. The letter was organized by the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council and emailed to administration officials Tuesday evening.
“This is the value at the center of our nation’s education policies and civil rights laws,” the letter said, “and it is a principle espoused by the 2016 guidance issued by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education seeking the fair and respectful treatment of transgender students in our nation’s schools and colleges.”
The letter comes four days after the Justice Department dropped its objection to a preliminary injunction that halts the Obama-era guidance requiring schools to accommodate students in the bathrooms that match their gender identity. The move signals that the administration is changing course on transgender rights and left many parents “heartbroken and scared,” they wrote in the letter.
“You promised to be a president for all Americans, but less than 48 hours after Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General, the Department of Justice took a concrete step to undermine equality for the LGBTQ community,” the parents wrote.
Sarah McBride, spokeswoman for the Human Rights Council, said the parents hope to shift the administration’s thinking on transgender rights by appealing to policymakers.
“You never give up hope that if people — including elected officials — hear from people at the center of the policy debate, that their hearts will be opened and their minds will be changed,” McBride said.
In an interview in May with The Washington Post, Donald Trump, then the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said that he thought the government should protect transgender people, but that he would rescind guidance issued by the Obama administration directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. Trump said that should be left up to the states.
“I think it’s something where we have to help people — and hopefully the states will make the right decisions,” Trump said in the interview.
Opponents of the guidance said the Obama administration overstepped its authority. Some also argue that allowing students to use bathrooms that conflict with the sex on their birth certificates violates privacy and traditional values.
Transgender students and their advocates argue that barring them from bathroom that aligns with their gender identity amounts to discrimination and endangers their safety and well-being.
Parents of transgender students have long grappled with uncertainty over the rights of their children in the face of conflicting guidance from courts, the federal government and, in some cases, state legislatures that have passed laws requiring people to use public restrooms that align with the sex on their birth certificates.
The Supreme Court could offer some clarity on the matter. It is scheduled to hear oral arguments in March in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy from Virginia who sued his school board after it barred him from using the boys’ bathroom. But the high court could remand the case if the Trump administration rolls back the guidance.
In their letter, the parents lamented that some schools have moved to bar transgender students from bathrooms that match their gender identity.
“Sadly, there remain some in our school environments who still choose to target our children for mistreatment and violence,” the parents wrote. “These policies are wrong, they hurt our children, and they violate the principle of equal protection.”
The parents wrote that the Obama administration’s directive helped push policy changes in some schools that gave transgender students access to facilities that match their gender identity. It also reassured parents of transgender students that the federal government was working to protect their children.
“No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of the school day ahead. When this guidance was issued last year, it provided our families — and other families like our own across the country — with the knowledge and security that our government was determined to protect our children from bullying and discrimination,” they wrote. “Please do not take that away from us.”