Jeff Sessions – Photo: Gage Skidmore; Betsy DeVos – Photo: U.S. Department of Education.
The Human Rights Campaign has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education seeking communications related to the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Obama-era guidance on transgender students.
The now-revoked guidance had encouraged schools to treat transgender students in schools according to their gender identity, including allowing them to access sex-segregated facilities that comport with that identity, rather than their biological sex at birth.
“Pursuant to the provisions of the Freedom of Information ACt, the Human Rights Campaign hereby requests from the Department of Justice any and all records, including but not limited to letters, memos, emails, text messages, phone records, scheduling records, and other documentation related to rescinding, amending, or preserving the “Dear Colleague” letter from the Departments of Justice and Education dated May 13, 2016, and related to transgender students, gender identity, student privacy, restroom access, and locker room access, between November 9, 2016 and the present,” HRC wrote in its FOIA request.
“This request includes, but is not limited to, communication between all employees of the Department of Justice with other employees of the Department of Justice, employees of the Department of Education, the White House, members of the transition team and any non-governmental parties who were consulted on the aforementioned topics,” the FOIA continues.
In its request, HRC cites a Feb. 22 article in The New York Times as evidence that there was such communication between major players within the administration. Specifically, the Times reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had conversations with both the Trump White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions about what actions to take. But LGBTQ advocates have also expressed interest in whether the Trump administration caved to demands from socially conservative interest groups before it rescinded the Obama guidance.
“The public deserves to know who directed the Trump administration’s attack on transgender students, and why it became a major policy priority for both the Departments of Justice and Education,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
Griffin also noted that the Trump administration had not responded to prior requests from transgender advocates seeking a meeting with the president. One such request was submitted by HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, which had urged the administration to keep the guidance in place in order to protect their children from bullying and harassment at school.
“After refusing to respond to our request to meet with the transgender children and families harmed by this dangerous policy, the Trump administration must follow the rule of law and release all communications related to the targeting of trans youth,” Griffin added. “These communications will shed light on why a President who proclaims himself a friend of the LGBTQ community would target the most vulnerable among us.”