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NBJC Disagrees with DOE’s Decision to No Longer Address the Complaints of Transgender Students

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 14, 2018) – The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS, released the following statement in response to reports exposing the Department of Education’s decision to no longer investigate or take action on complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity.

“U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Department of Education have a foundational obligation to ensure that all students thrive,” said NBJC Executive Director David J. Johns. “According to its mission, the Department is supposed to ‘promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.’ What is important to underscore is the inclusion of ALL students. This most recent decision by the Department of Education is in direct violation of this foundational principle.”

Numerous federal appeals and circuit courts have ruled in recent decades that sex discrimination laws also apply to discrimination against transgender people, which includes the landmark Title IX education law. However, the Department of Education claims that Title IX does not, somehow, protect gender identity.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, public schools were instructed to allow students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, despite what is written on their birth certificates. Additionally, in 2016, NBJC hosted The White House Summit on African American LGBTQ Youth in partnership with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The event convened more than 100 LGBTQ youth of color to discuss a breadth of topics, including providing safe schools in which Black LGBTQ students and the faculty that support them feel comfortable openly expressing and affirming diverse identities and forms of expression.

“The previous Administration was very intentional in bringing together LGBTQ youth of color to talk about the assets they possess, the challenges they face and the responsibility we, as caring and concerned adults, have to ensure they feel safe, engaged and supported both in school and out of school,” Johns added. “The current Administration, sadly, seems determined to ignore the needs of students in public schools today, particularly those who are most often vulnerable and ignored.” 

“In spite of Secretary DeVos’ lack of foundational knowledge about the public education system in the United States, she should be thoughtful enough to respond to the needs of students, especially when they are articulated to her at her invitation.”

Grace Dolan-Sandrino, a 17-year-old Afro-Latina transgender student and activist, said that, with this decision, DeVos has rescinded the very liberties that were assured to her and other transgender students during a recent meeting at the U.S. Department of Education.

“[DeVos’] eyes welled with tears as she said that no child should have to have their rights taken as we did,” Dolan-Sandrino said.  “Now she declares the U.S. Department of Education will no longer hear any claims that our rights have been violated by refusing to let us exist in peace”

She added, “DeVos and the rest of her administration are free to use the nurse's bathroom if my humanity offends them, but me and my transgender sisters and brothers will be using the bathroom that corresponds to our genders.”

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The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.