The Trump administration rescinded guidelines protecting transgender students’ ability to access bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity Wednesday, sparking criticism from the Berkeley community.
The original guidelines reflected the Obama administration’s position on nondiscrimination laws under Title IX that require schools to allow gender nonconforming students to use bathrooms of their choice. Although the guidelines were previously restricted from nationwide enforcement by a federal injunction in August 2016, the policy change by the Trump administration denotes the loss of an influential tool for transgender equity advocates, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“I think it’s unbelievable that President Trump and his administration would put students in harm’s way,” said California Assemblymember Phil Ting, an advocate for gender equality. “I was very disappointed and very shocked to see those guidelines rescinded. The trans community is the latest in the line for the president’s bullying, and we will continue to watch his actions and react accordingly.”
Ting said he believed the rescinding of the guidelines was a disappointment, but added that the rights of Californians will continue to be protected. California’s School Success and Opportunity Act, AB 1266, mandates that students be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender on the student’s records.
According to a press release Thursday by the UC Office of the President, the university will continue to ensure that transgender members of the UC community have access to restrooms compatible with their gender identities. In June 2015, UC President Janet Napolitano issued the University of California Guidelines for Providing Gender Inclusive Facilities. The guidelines apply to restrooms, changing rooms and showers in university-owned buildings.
Campus real estate spokesperson Christine Shaff emphasized that the Trump administration’s actions would not impact UC Berkeley’s efforts to establish gender-inclusive restrooms on campus. According to the campus website, UC Berkeley has 44 gender-inclusive restroom locations on campus.
The Berkeley Unified School District, responsible for approximately 9,400 students at the elementary-, middle- and high-school levels, will also continue to enforce its Gender Equity and Access Policy, according to BUSD spokesperson Charles Burress. As of August 2015, gender-neutral bathrooms have been implemented at all BUSD schools.
“It is very concerning that the rights of transgender students (are) not being upheld at the Federal level,” Burress said in an email. “BUSD will continue to recognize the rights of transgender and gender expansive children and youth.”
Despite protective policies implemented in California and in the UC system, members of the Berkeley community have expressed concern regarding the impact of the new policy on the treatment of transgender students across the country.
“Not mincing words, (this is) raw bigotry and hatred — unnecessary,” said Billy Curtis, director of the campus Gender Equity Resource Center. “We as Californians enjoy a lot of protections. We’re by no means perfect, but there are folks across the nation who have zero protection.”