The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued an internal memorandum earlier this month announcing that it will investigate taxpayer-funded teachers and administrators who use biologically accurate pronouns for transgender students instead of the pronouns transgender students prefer.
Candice Jackson, the Trump administration’s acting secretary for civil rights within the Department of Education since April, issued the internal memo on June 6.
The memo explains “the effects of developments on the enforcement of Title IX” concerning transgender students.
Specifically, the memo declares, the federal government may investigate taxpayer-funded schools for “refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred name or pronouns when the school uses preferred names for gender-conforming students or when the refusal is motivated by animus toward people who do not conform to sex stereotypes.”
Jackson’s memo also explains that the Office for Civil Rights may choose to investigate teachers and administrators at public schools if they don’t act quickly whenever transgender students allege sex discrimination over “stereotyped notions of masculinity or femininity.”
In the event, Trump’s Office for Civil Rights explains, federal investigators would determine whether a failure to use the pronouns requested by a transgender student creates “a hostile environment.”
Liberty Counsel, a civil rights group focused on Christian religious freedom, notes that Title IX, a 1972 federal law banning discrimination on the basis of biological sex in education, does not address pronouns chosen by transgender students.
“Title IX does not require a school district or teacher to call students by false gender pronouns,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver in a press release sent to The Daily Caller.
“Title IX is silent regarding the use of pronouns, and it cannot be a violation to refer to students by pronouns consistent with their actual sex,” Staver also said. “Requiring false pronoun usage by teachers is a compelled speech violation for teachers and compelling students to participate in a lie violates their right to free speech. I thought we had seen the last of this nonsense coming out of the Department of Education. I call upon Betsy DeVoss to end this new policy.”
In February, the Trump administration announced that it had revoked a vague Obama administration order forcing taxpayer-funded schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. Two federal agencies, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, jointly issued the administrative guidance in the form of a letter.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested at the time that President Trump would abandon Obama’s transgender-bathroom mandate. “This is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” Spicer informed reporters, according to The New York Times.
The previous Obama administration guidance, sent in May 2016, instructed public school districts across the country to allow transgender students to choose bathrooms and shower stalls consistent with their gender identity, not their biological features.
Also in February, the U.S. Department of Justice sought permission to delay a hearing on a motion — filed last year — asking federal district judge Reed O’Connor to ease a preliminary injunction striking down the Obama administration guidance on bathroom and shower use in public schools.
The preliminary injunction, entered in August, stems from a 2016 lawsuit filed by the state of Texas in response to the Obama administration’s transgender bathrooms directive. A dozen states joined the suit, which accused federal agencies of issuing the guidelines by means of regulatory “dark matter” — a deluge of agency directives, notices, memoranda, guidance documents, and even blog posts which effectively create new policy without congressional legislation or Administrative Procedure Act (APA) protocols. The states claim that this strategy allows agencies to evade judicial review and achieve their policy objectives.
Judge O’Connor, an appointee of George W. Bush, wrote in the preliminary injunction that Title IX “is not ambiguous” concerning “the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.”