The White House’s decision to roll back rules allowing transgender students to use the public school bathrooms of their choosing is “thoughtless, cruel and sad,” former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Friday.
Writing alongside former Deputy Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon, Duncan attacked the White House’s reasoning behind the roll back, that the issue should be left for states to decide, as being a “fundamental misunderstanding of the federal role in protecting the civil rights of students.”
“Worse yet, it confuses states and school districts, and puts real, live children at greater risk of harm,” the two authors wrote.
“This decision is thoughtless, cruel and sad and was implemented without serious consideration for the students it affects.”
The White House’s suggestion that the bathroom guidance, issued by the administration of former President Barack Obama, was done without “due regard” to local school districts is “categorically false,” the op-ed’s authors wrote. The Obama-administration guidance was issued with the input of teachers, parents, school boards, school administrators and parents, they said, in addition to transgender students.
“Withdrawing guidance, offering no information instead, and noting that the federal government wants to ‘more completely consider the legal issues’ is a dangerous default to ‘local control’ politics instead of honoring the letter and the spirit of the law,” Duncan and Lhamon wrote.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos deserves “some credit,” they said, based on reports that she was initially opposed to revoking the Obama-era guidance before signing off on the measure faced with the alternative of resignation. But the authors expressed concern that the early defeat for DeVos could signal future losses on a host of other issues.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied that there was any dissent on the move to pull back the bathroom guidance, telling reporters at a press briefing earlier this week that there was “no daylight between anybody — between the president, between any of the secretaries” and that DeVos in particular was “100 percent” on board.
“When it comes to protecting students, the law is clear: Civil rights are paramount,” the two authors wrote. “These are real issues affecting real people and carrying consequences every day for children in classrooms. They deserve better.”