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Officials, Advocates Blast Trump's 'Terrible' Transgender Policy, Reaffirm Protections In Chicago

By Stephen Gossett in News on Feb 23, 2017 5:56PM

Getty Images / Photo: Sara D. Davis

Illinois officials and LGBTQ organizations blasted President Donald Trump's decision to rescind the Obama administration's 2016 guidance that schools allow transgender students to use the bathroom befitting their gender identity. Local political and school officials also reaffirmed the Chicago Public Schools' policy that respects transgender students' bathroom rights.

The new direction from Trump—whose proclamations such as this Tweet claiming to "fight for the LGBT community are proving as tragically ironic as many feared—was billed as a state's rights issue by the White House even though gender discrimination law has largely operated at the federal level.

Chicago Public Schools students will not be affected by the federal Justice and Education departments' notice of withdrawal, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Wednesday night.

"While tonight federal protections for transgender students have been rolled back, I want to be clear that the City of Chicago's and Chicago Public Schools policies providing equal rights to transgender residents and students will remain unchanged,” the mayor said in a statement. “Chicago will stay steadfast in our commitment to fight for equality and against discrimination in all its forms.”

Chicago Public Schools first adopted a policy that allows students to use the restroom and locker room that matches their gender identity prior to the Obama directive.

“CPS led the way among school districts on bathroom policies for transgender students and staff, and we have no intention of backing down no matter what President Trump does to discriminate against the LGBTQ community,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in an email.

According to the Tribune and CBS Chicago, some suburban districts have also said they will maintain existing policies that respect transgender students' rights, including Elgin's U-46 and the Berwyn South School District 100. How a Palatine district in which a 2015 legal battle over a transgender student's bathroom access played out will respond is not yet clear.

The decision to rescind the guideline drew swift and firm rebuke from a host of Illinois officials, including U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, Mike Quigley, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Speakers from Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and ACLU of Illinois spoke out against the move at Thursday morning press conference.

"We are outraged the Trump Administration would choose to target transgender children for discrimination. Rescinding the guidance letter sends a terrible message and invites personal bias to flourish in our public schools," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, in a statement.

The Trump administration's letter arrived one day after a 24-year-old trans woman of color was killed in Englewood.

More than two-thirds of transgender students reported feeling unsafe in school because of their gender orientation, according to a GLSEN report.

The condemnations and reaffirmations are key, no doubt. At the same time, organizations such as the Trans Lifeline and the Transgender Law Center could always use more assistance at times like these. Here's an approach we found instructive: