The Education Department has reportedly stated that it will no longer investigate or take any action on complaints filed by transgender students who have been barred from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
No formal announcement has been made, but an Education Department spokesperson has recently confirmed the agency position with BuzzFeed News.
When asked on Thursday whether the department holds a position that restroom complaints from transgender students are not covered by a 1972 federal civil rights law called Title IX, Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the agency, replied, "yes, that's what the law says."
"Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity," Hill explained on Friday, after being asked for further explanation on the issue.
"Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX," she went on to say.
The agency's position differs from two federal appeals court decisions that contended that the ban on discrimination "on the basis of sex" includes gender identity.
The Obama administration had clarified Title IX by stating that its protection extends to discrimination based on gender identity. However, the Trump administration rescinded the guidance, saying such issues should be decided at the local level.
It was previously reported that the Department of Education had already started telling students that it will no longer receive transgender bathroom complaints because the issue no longer falls under its jurisdiction.
Candice Jackson, acting head of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, had reportedly issued a memo in June stating that it would be "permissible" for a transgender bathroom complaint to be dismissed. However, the memo had not asserted any interpretation of the law or a general rule for handling such complaints.
In October, the Justice Department had announced that the protections in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace, does not apply to transgender individuals.
The officials at the Education and Justice Departments had not responded to questions about when they had ceased considering transgender student restroom complaints as a matter of policy and how many of those complaints have been rejected.
According to the Huffington Post, the Office for Civil Rights had received 40 percent fewer complaints regarding the overall treatment of transgender students from January 2017 to January 2018 compared to the period from January 2016 to January 2017.