The Education Department has confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it will not investigate or act on complaints from transgender students who allege that they were prevented from using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Spokesperson Liz Hill told the news outlet in a statement on Thursday that the department does not consider bathroom complaints from transgender students to be covered by Title IX anti-discrimination laws.
Asked to clarify, Hill later told BuzzFeed that “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.”
According to the news outlet, she said that while certain complaints related to transgender discrimination may be investigated, bathroom complaints will not be.
Previously, the administration had said they were still studying the issue. According to BuzzFeed, this is the first time the administration has publicly stated this position as an interpretation of the Title IX law.
“While civil rights advocates have suspected that the Department of Education was not acting on complaints brought forward by transgender students, reports that these violations are completely being ignored are reprehensible,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a statement.
“The department’s failure to act conflicts with the law in multiple jurisdictions, including federal circuits, and further emboldens those who seek to discriminate against transgender students. Once again, Secretary DeVos proves she is not interested in protecting transgender students and instead is choosing to advance the dangerous Trump-Pence anti-LGBTQ agenda.”
The BuzzFeed report comes after a series of policy decisions by the Trump administration that have sparked anger in the LGBT community.
In February 2017, the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era guidance that said transgender students could use the restroom that matches their gender identity. The guidance had been suspended previously by a district court after several states challenged it.
The Education Department in June issued a memo that said its department could dismiss cases related to the restroom issue, but didn't go so far as to say all such cases would automatically be dismissed because they weren't covered by Title IX.
Also last year, the Trump administration attempted to ban transgender people from serving in the military. That policy has since been put on ice as a number of cases seeking to challenge it work their way through the courts. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE also rescinded a policy that protected transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace.
However, some argue that the stance the Education Department has taken might not hold up legally. The stance also conflicts with two federal appeals courts that ruled transgender students have the right to use the restroom that matches their gender identity under Title IX.