Failure to use a transgender students' preferred name or pronoun is considered gender-based harassment and can lead to an investigation by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
In a June 6 memo obtained by the Washington Post, Candice Jackson — acting assistant secretary for civil rights — also noted that the agency may open investigations if schools fail to properly assess whether such instances of gender-based harassment created a "hostile environment."
Other examples the civil rights office may investigate include failure to properly and equitably resolve transgender students' allegations of sex discrimination, retaliation against transgender students who bring up allegations and different treatment based on sex stereotypes, such as failure to conform to "stereotyped notions of masculinity or femininity."
While the memo also directs lawyers and investigators to consider transgender students' discrimination complaints on a case-by-case basis, the memo also says it's "permissible" to dismiss an allegation of restroom-access denial. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos earlier this year turned back the Obama administration's directive to let students access bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identities.
"Please evaluate each allegation separately, searching for permissible jurisdictional basis for OCR to retain and pursue the complaint," the memo reads. "It is permissible, for example, for one allegation in a complaint (such as harassment based on gender stereotypes) to go forward while another allegation (such as denial of access to restroom based on gender identity) is dismissed."
But an anonymous civil rights office employee told the Post that the memo actually is a “green light” to move forward with discrimination complaints from transgender students concerning bathroom access.
“The presumption here should be it’s business as usual," the employee told the Post, "and not that OCR is abdicating its role as a protector of civil rights for transgender students.”
More from the Post:
Anurima Bhargava, who served in the Obama administration’s Justice Department and believes transgender students have a right to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, agreed that the memo is written in a way that gives federal officials room to pursue complaints from students who are denied bathroom access. “It is saying proceed in accordance with the law, and the law is moving in the right direction,” Bhargava said.
(H/T: The Christian Post)