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Princeton, other universities urge DeVos to protect transgender students

Princeton, other universities urge DeVos to protect transgender students
© Greg Nash

The heads of Princeton, Rutgers and the University of Wisconsin-Madison penned a joint letter Thursday urging Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosReport: DeVos has no plans to step down The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Dems prepare to aggressively wield new oversight powers Princeton, other universities urge DeVos to protect transgender students MORE to protect transgender students. 

President Christopher Eisgruber of Princeton, President Robert Barchi of Rutgers and Chancellor Rebecca Blank of UW-Madison wrote the letter in response to reports that the Department of Health and Human Services is considering narrowing the definition of gender to be strictly biological, a move which would affect civil rights laws banning gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

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"Such a narrow and binary definition would have the effect of rolling back important protections against discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity," the higher education heads wrote. 

They highlighted that the rule change would remove protections for transgender students who already suffer significant obstacles in education.

"These protections are important because transgender Americans in all parts of the country, including students and others on our campuses, have faced discrimination, isolation, and harassment."

The university leaders said that the Department of Education's "responsibility to protect every student in America" means that DeVos must lead the fight to opposed the proposed changes.

"This is no time for the country to turn its back on these valued members of our communities," they wrote.

"We hope you will provide needed leadership in opposing the proposed change, and that you will strongly advocate for an interpretation of Title IX (and other federal laws) that fully protects the rights of transgender people—an interpretation grounded in the law, medical judgment, compassion, and a firm commitment to respect the dignity of all Americans."

The Trump administration has made multiple efforts to roll back Obama-era protections of transgender people.

The administration announced a policy in May that required the Bureau of Prisons to use "biological sex" as the determining factor for assigning facilities and bathrooms.

The White House and Department of Defense announced earlier this year that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the military, but that policy that has been rejected by multiple judges.