Transgender   Students
Transgender Students in Pubic Schools
by Jim Hopkins, school board member
image missing On May 13, 2016 the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education published a joint letter for public schools entitled "Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students."  The Department of Education issues a dozen or so Dear Colleague Letters per year to state and local school boards on various subjects.  Most of them are not covered by the press but this one was released with a big media splash.

Coverage of the letter by the news media was disappointing because the media implied the letter was a mandate from the federal government, which it is not.  The federal government defines Dear Colleague Letters as "guidance documents" and by law, they cannot impose any binding requirements.  This fact is clearly documented in the letter's second footnote: Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices, 72 Fed. Reg.3432, 3434 (Jan. 25, 2007). This bulletin says in part: "Nothing in this bulletin is intended to indicate that a guidance document can impose a legally binding requirement."

Most Dear Colleague Letters end with a threat to withhold federal funds.  But attorneys that handle these issues have told me that the federal government has never withheld funds from any Virginia School Board, based on a Dear Colleague Letter.  At the present time these agencies lack the authority to mandate the guidance, so they attempt to bully states and local school boards into voluntarily implementing their guidance.

Orange County schools often have students that request special arrangements in using bathroom facilities.  These are dealt with on a one-on-one basis because the reasons can very.  All of our schools have private bathroom facilities in the heath room and in the main office, which if the need arises, can be made available to a particular student.  Students are required to request an accommodation (as noted in the Dear Colleague Letter) and a workable solution can be achieved.

As a follow-up to this article: In August 2016, a federal district court in Texas issued a national wide injunction barring the enforcement of the above referenced guidance document.  On February 22, 2017 the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice issued a joint Dear Colleague Letter withdrawing and rescinding the "Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students."