Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that schools should disregard a “significant guidance” by the Obama administration warning schools that they must allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
In a statement from his office, he said the guidance “is offensive, intrusive and totally lacking in common sense.”
Hutchinson was reacting to a letter dated May 13 by Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights with the U.S. Department of Education; and Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice. In the letter, the two wrote that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination, applies to transgender students.
“A school’s Title IX obligation to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns,” the two wrote.
Hutchinson said schools do not have to comply with the guidance, and shouldn’t.
”The recent letter from the federal government providing guidance to Arkansas schools on gender identification is offensive, intrusive and totally lacking in common sense,” he said. “There is no recognizable problem in Arkansas on this issue. The federal government is stirring the pot and meddling in the local control and administration of our schools.
“As Governor, I recommend that local school districts disregard the latest attempt at social engineering by the federal government and continue to use common sense to ensure a safe and healthy environment in Arkansas schools. While the letter implies federal money could be withheld, the letter is nothing more than guidance and is not legally binding.”
Regarding restrooms and locker rooms, Lhamon and Gupta wrote, “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy.”
They wrote that transgender students are not required to have a medical diagnosis or treatment.
Lhamon and Gupta wrote that schools can offer sex-segregated athletics teams but may not “adopt or adhere to requirements that rely on overly broad generalizations or stereotypes about the differences between transgender students and other students of the same sex.” Not prohibited, however, are participation requirements based on research-based medical knowledge regarding competitive fairness or physical safety.
The two wrote that students must be allowed to participate in single sex classes that are consistent with their gender identity.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., called the letter a “blatant abuse of power” by the Obama Administration.
“This is a shameful overreach by President Obama to push his beliefs on Arkansans and all Americans. Threatening our schools with lawsuits or the loss of federal funding for failing to comply with this directive is the latest power grab by this Administration. I reject this attempt by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to control our schools from Washington, and support Governor Hutchinson’s call for Arkansas school districts to ignore the blatant abuse of power by the President.”
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, who represents Arkansas’ 4th District, released a statement saying, “Last night, the Obama administration made our children political pawns in a move that promotes perversion. Threatening our local schools over who uses which restrooms is an attempt to bully local schools into accepting an offensive, radical social agenda. I will not stand for this attack on children, nor will the American people. I condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice and will work with my House colleagues on an answer that ensures local schools continue to have local control without interference and intimidation from Washington.”