Last week’s controversial directive by the Obama Administration to the nation’s public schools and colleges has understandably shocked many parents and students.
In fact, according to a new Rasmussen poll earlier this week, 55 percent of parents with elementary and secondary school age children oppose it while 32 percent support it; 16 percent are undecided.
As I said in my media statement Friday, the move to open up restrooms and showers to gender-confused students undermines parental rights and politicizes our kids’ education.
The sad thing is that separate bathrooms and shower areas for boys and girls were considered common sense only a few months ago. But now the administration is strong-arming schools to open up these areas where privacy and safety should be expected. All that’s needed for an 18-year-old senior young man to enter the girls’ locker room where a 14-year-old freshman girl is changing her clothes is his word that he “identifies” as female.
And if you ask me, that’s foolish!
You can understand why many parents are concerned about their children’s safety and privacy.
But the issue goes beyond bathroom use: It strikes at the core of what it means to be human.
From creation and the foundation of society, humanity has been divided into male and female. As a result, all our laws assume this “binary” the Left now rejects. This shift will ultimately impact everything from marriage and family law to, yes, public accommodations and bathroom use.
To reject the truth of male and female is hard to fathom, isn’t it? A reality that predates even the institutions of marriage and family is no longer self-evident to some.
Many of you have questions about this monumental policy shift, so I’ve asked the analysts from our public policy team to weigh in and provide some answers.
Here’s our exchange:
Jim Daly: Last Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued transgender “guidelines” to those schools which amounted to the redefinition of “sex” as it applies to public education. Are these the only two government agencies redefining the term “sex”?
Focus Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht: No, there is evidence of a broader attempt to redefine terms and more federal agencies involved than just these two. Here are just a few examples:
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been redefining “sex discrimination” in employment laws to include gender identity.
- The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed reinterpreting the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination protections on the basis of biological sex to include gender identity.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued “guidelines” to government-funded homeless shelters that require them to allow men and women to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice based on their “gender identity.”
None of these so-called “definitions” have been legislated or approved by Congress, yet they all redefine a term – “sex” – that Congress specifically included in all civil rights laws since 1964, which meant only one thing: biological sex.
JD: What prompted the rise in federal agencies taking it upon themselves to redefine “sex?”
Bruce Hausknecht: It is quite simply an attempt to bypass Congress’ legislative role to achieve a political end, and it has evolved over time. Congress has categorically rejected the inclusion of both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into federal civil rights laws for years based on numerous policy grounds, including their tendency to negatively impact religious conscience. (See more here.)
Frustrated activists pushing for such laws have found other means to achieve the same ends, such as:
(1) getting state legislatures, cities and counties to pass them; and
(2) using a friendly Administration in Washington, D.C., that is willing and able to work around Congress to effectively create new “policies” and “guidelines” that operate as law, always with an implied threat of federal prosecution or loss of federal funds.
JD: What do the Obama Administration guidelines mean for schools and parents?
Focus Education Analyst Candi Cushman: What’s not being reported by most mainstream media is how far-reaching the Administration’s mandate to schools really is.
For instance, most media reports have focused narrowly on school bathrooms and completely ignored the fact that this policy pushes the federal government’s arm into multiple other details of daily school life: In essence, the guidelines command schools to allow a boy who identifies as a girl—and vice versa—unfettered access to locker rooms, showers, bathrooms and even overnight school trips.
If enforced, it would affect athletics and even schools’ ability to group boys and girls into separate classes in order to help them focus academically and participate in activities tailored to their learning styles. Separating “students by sex in classes and activities is generally prohibited,” proclaims the letter, except in “nonvocational” or extracurricular circumstances.
It’s incredible that with this one sweeping action, the White House has dictated policy for every local school in the nation, regardless of what millions of parents, students and educators feel about it. And if they don’t fall in line, they can lose millions of dollars.
JD: Can these guidelines really be enforced? What do parents need to know about protecting their children’s privacy and safety rights?
Candi Cushman: The reality is that the White House’s “Dear colleague” letter to schools amounts to an arbitrary reinterpretation of 40-year-old civil rights laws—without any of the congressional action that would normally be required to change a historical law.
In short, what the administration has been too impatient to accomplish through the normal legislative system, it’s now done by simply issuing what amounts to a dictatorial edict. Whether that edict will be consistently backed up by like-minded courts remains to be seen and may take a while to play out on a national scale.
In the meantime, at the local and personal level, parents need to feel confident in their right—and responsibility—to speak to speak up for their parent rights and advocate for their children. Parents need to have an open dialogue with their schools to help ensure their kids’ safety and physical privacy.
They can do this by asking school officials to see any classroom materials or instruction regarding sensitive topics like gender and sexuality. Parents can also, politely but firmly, make clear that their children’s safety needs—in bathrooms, locker rooms and on overnight trips, should be respected and actively protected.
JD: Some people advocating for laws elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to civil rights status equate the LGBT movement with the struggle African-Americans experienced in the 1960’s, like Jim Crow laws. As an African-American, do you see these as the same?
Focus State Issues Analyst Timothy Allen: No, it’s not the same thing. The civil rights struggle and resulting laws to prohibit discrimination were the result of a long and widespread history of denial of individual civil rights to people who could not change the immutable characteristic of their race.
But the latest mantra of the LGBT movement is that gender and sexuality are “fluid,” meaning you can be what you want, when you want – even if other people are not aware of how you perceive yourself. Black Americans have never had the choice to either hide or change their identity (and legal status).
Feeling trangender is not the same as being black. Feeling attracted to a certain gender is not the same as being Asian. There is no choice or preference to one’s race.
Jim Daly: Aside from bathrooms, do you have other concerns about the new guidelines from federal departments?
Focus Gender Analyst Jeff Johnston: Our concern with the transgender agenda goes beyond bathrooms and locker rooms – as important as issues of privacy and safety are. The Bible teaches that God made humans in His image – male and female. Both are good, but they are different. Men and women are unique counterparts, reflecting God’s image in wonderfully different ways.
On the other hand, this declaration from the Departments of Education and Justice says gender is fluid and changeable; people can be whatever “gender” they want. This directly opposes biblical teaching. Students will be taught something that is false, and biblical truth – that there are two distinct sexes – will be portrayed as bigoted and discriminatory. That’s a concern for Christians – and especially Christian parents – across the nation.
I’m curious to hear from you on this topic. What have you heard from your public school? Do you have any other questions our team can answer? What are you telling your children? How are you planning to respond?