Don’t turn back clock on civil rights

NJEA’s officers, President Wendell Steinhauer, Vice President Marie Blistan and Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller, released a joint statement today condemning the Trump administration’s recent letter withdrawing guidance issued to school districts by the Obama administration intended to protect the safety and civil rights of transgendered students. Its key provision reads: “Title IX’s implementing regulations permit a school to provide sex-segregated restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, housing, and athletic teams, as well as single-sex classes under certain circumstances. When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

The Trump administration letter, issued jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, withdraws that guidance, and leaves students again vulnerable to discriminatory policies that may be implemented at the state or local level.

NJEA’s officers released this statement:

“The Trump Administration’s effort to turn back the clock and to weaken important civil rights protections for students sends a very dangerous message. Students who rely on those protections are more vulnerable to discrimination because of the administration’s regressive action.

“The administration’s letter was signed by representatives of both the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice. It is particularly upsetting that the Department tasked with protecting the civil rights of students gave in to political pressure and allowed this damaging change of policy. Betsy DeVos’ choice to give in to the administration and not to stand up for all students is further evidence that she is unfit to lead the Department of Education. Since she cannot be an advocate for all children, she should resign her position.”

“Our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of all students in New Jersey’s public schools has never wavered. No child should ever feel threatened, unwelcome or singled out in school. Our members strive every day to create safe, welcoming spaces where learning can take place. We will not stand by while the federal government begins working to undermine those efforts.

“We call on Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington to ensure that the protections extended to transgendered students last year remain in place in New Jersey. Nothing in the letter just issued prevents states from recognizing and protecting the established civil rights of students. New Jersey’s elected and appointed leaders should do whatever is necessary to send an unambiguous message that our state does not tolerate discrimination against any student for any reason.”

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