The Obama-era guidelines require public schools to allow children to use bathrooms and other facilities that correspond to their gender identities.
But the directive is opposed by religious conservatives, who call it a form of improper social engineering. They say students should use bathrooms that match their sex at birth.
The decision to roll back the guidance reportedly sparked a heated debate inside the Trump administration, pitting Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos was uncomfortable rescinding the directive, according to The New York Times. But Sessions urged DeVos to back new guidance, which requires approval from both of their departments.
Trump ultimately sided with Sessions, and DeVos agreed to go along. But she reportedly persuaded the administration to include language requiring schools to crack down on bullying of transgender students.
Trump's plan comes about a month before the Supreme Court is expected to hear a case weighing the controversial issue.
Gloucester County School Board v. G.G, now scheduled for oral arguments on March 28, centers on Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender student, who was barred by a Virginia school board from using the boy's bathroom because he was born female.
The school enacted a policy in 2014 requiring all students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth.
The school board is appealing a lower court ruling siding with Grimm, arguing that the Obama administration's interpretations of sex under Title IX anti-discrimination laws constituted an agency rulemaking that required a public notice and comment period under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The justices are now being asked to weigh two questions: Whether courts should give deference to agency guidance that's in the form of an unpublished letter, and whether Title IX anti-discrimination protections can be extended to require schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity when it comes to bathroom facilities.
The shift in policy has created a cloud of uncertainty over what will happen to the case.
Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at ACLU, which filed the case on behalf of Grimm, said revoking the guidance could affect the court's ability to answer the first question, but shouldn't affect the second.
Regardless of what the past administration said and what the new administration is saying now, he said it's still up to the court to decide what Title IX covers.
"Who knows how broad or narrow the decision will be, but at a minimum they could say schools can’t pass these policies to exclude kids from restrooms," he said.
- Updated at 5:55 p.m.