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State School Board Letting Individual Districts Decide On Transgender Policies

The interim state superintendent of schools says she would like individual districts to decide how to react to the recent U.S. Department of Education guidelines on how to accommodate transgender students.

The joint guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department instructs schools wanting to comply with Title IX standards to not discriminate against a person based on their gender identity. In part, the government is asking schools to permit students to use the bathroom and locker rooms of the gender they identify with. The guidance also says that schools can’t force a transgender student to use individual-user facilities when other students aren’t also forced to use them.

What this means for Utah schools is unclear. In a letter sent to district superintendents and charter school directors, Interim State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson says the State Board will not be providing a directive and expects schools to continue to accommodate the needs of individual students on a case-by-case basis and according to the local policies and procedures already in place.

Meanwhile, Utah Governor Gary Herbert says the mandate is just another example of federal government overreach. Herbert says before schools should be expected to make any changes, he’d like to have local discussions about the issue.

“The action kind of being dictated to us as a one-size-fits-all I think would actually have some significant negative implications and hurt the transgender community actually out there,” Herbert says.

The guidelines are likely to be challenged in court if the federal government decides to pull funding from a district that doesn’t comply. 

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