The Department of Education clarified its stance toward respecting the gender identities of trans student under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 in a memo on Monday, reports Time.
Amidst 34 pages of "Questions and Answers" on Title IX's meanings for single-gender elementary and secondary schools, one paragraph stands out to trans advocates.
"Under Title IX," the memo states in response to question #31, "a recipient generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes."
Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendment of 1972 that includes language prohibiting discrimination based on sex. While it has most often been applied in cases of cisgender (nontrans) female athletes being allowed to participate in high school and college athletics, the Education Department made it explicitly clear in April that "sex protections" also cover gender identity.
Over the years, Title IX has been increasingly applied case-by-case to individual instances of discrimination towards trans students, but the December 1 memo appears to have made the DOE's overall stance straightforward in a way that schools cannot ignore. This has possibly far-reaching consequences in cases such as the recent discussion in the Minnesota State High School League about how to best include trans students on single-gender sports teams.
"Up to this point, we have known that this is [the DOE's] view of the law," Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, told Time. "But the problem has been that their interpretation has not gotten out more broadly to school districts across the country that are still grappling with how to treat transgender students fairly and make sure that they're included."
Shannon Minter, a trans lawyer and legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, agreed. "We're thrilled," he told Time. "It's so critical to the health and well-being of those students, and it's going to be so helpful to have that guidance in writing so that schools understand what their obligations are."