Transgender students’ access to bathrooms is at the front of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) agenda, but at this time states are divided on their stances.

The Obama administration sent a joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice to schools with guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”

Neither EPS, DC have Transgender policy in place

Neither Edmond nor Deer Creek officials have a board-adopted restroom policy to accommodate transgender students.

According to Edmond School District officials, “Upon advice of legal counsel, Edmond Public Schools does not currently have a board-adopted restroom policy to accommodate transgender students. The district follows the guidelines set forth by the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX and collaborates with both the student and the student’s parents to find a suitable solution for the student.”

Edmond and Deer Creek school districts have been known in the past to always put the safety and well-being of their students at the forefront.

“Upon receiving information about a transgender student, the central office works with the student, their parents and school site administrators to sustain a safe environment for the student. We are committed to the safety and well-being of all of our students,” said Susan Parks-Schlepp, public information officer for the district.  

Deer Creek Schools spokesperson Lenis DeRieux said, “Deer Creek School District does not currently have a policy regarding restroom use. Deer Creek will abide by all state and federal law.   

“Our first priority will always be the safety and well-being of all students.”

Pruitt voices concern

On Friday afternoon, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in reply to the advisory.

“We have reviewed the ‘significant guidance letter’ issued today. Despite contending that it ‘does not add requirements to applicable law,’ this letter most definitely changes the law in that it takes the unprecedented step of redefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity.’ Your citations to U.S. Supreme Court precedent and references to lower court cases and administrative action are disingenuous at best.

“Further, you have forced this definition on parents, students and communities because you have deemed unjustifiable any discomfort that they may express. Your determination thus elevates the status of transgender students over those who would define their sex based on biology and who would seek to have their definition honored in the most private of places. Indeed, those latter students and their families cannot even seek reassurance that a transgender student’s self-definition is not premised on whim or caprice because you have disavowed the school’s ability to seek any form of documentation regarding the transgender child’s self-definition.

“Not only does this ‘significant guidance letter’ attempt to redefine for all Americans their most fundamental beliefs about who they are, it compels schools to join with you in enforcing this new definition. By conditioning the receipt of federal funds on compliance with the ‘significant guidance letter,’ schools have been given an ultimatum: Take it or lose it. As you must know, this leaves many schools without any real choice. You have thus transformed the federal ‘carrot and stick’ approach to school funding into ‘all stick’.

“We believe that your actions today are unlawful and that they represent the most egregious administrative overreach to date. You have taken a public policy issue that must, by our constitutional design, be worked out in the laboratory of democracy and enforced it on all people. And you have done so through a misuse of the spending power.

“Please be advised that if you attempt to enforce this ‘significant guidance letter’ on schools in the State of Oklahoma, we will vigorously defend the state’s interests.”

Sen. Lankford weighs in

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) Tuesday challenged the Department of Education’s legal justification for its May 13 guidance directive to local school districts regarding the use of public school bathrooms.

In a document released by his office Tuesday, Lankford contends the directive is part of a long pattern of attempts to create new mandates and requirements without the normal, transparent rule-making or legislative process.

“The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) allows agencies to provide notice of a proposed rule and solicit public comment on the proposal,” Lankford, of Edmond, stated in his letter. “I believe that the Dear Colleague letter on transgender students advances substantive and binding regulatory policies that may only be imposed on schools through an act of Congress followed by the promulgation of rules compliant with notice-and-comment procedures.”

Through his letter to the Department, Lankford asked them to explain their legal justification for expanding “sex” under Title IX to include “gender identity.” Among other questions, Lankford also asked if schools are prohibited from taking into account the privacy rights of all students in service of adherence to the discrimination policies set forth by the Department’s Office of Civil Rights. Lankford requested a response from the Department by May 31.

This year Lankford has repeatedly challenged the Department of Education’s use of ‘Dear Colleague’ letters and ‘guidance documents’ to mandate policy for schools without adhering to the legislative process or transparent regulatory process. Academics and legal experts have agreed with Lankford’s criticism of the Department of Education.

A native Oklahoman, retired school teacher Patty Miller taught journalism and English for 30 years before beginning her second career as a reporter for The Edmond Sun in 2000. She is a previous winner of the OPA's Beachy Musselman Award.

Recommended for you