NCTE and Legal Groups Inform NC School Districts of Obligations Under Federal Law
On Friday, the National Center for Transgender Equality, along with allied organizations, sent a letter to the head of every school district in North Carolina detailing school officials’ obligations to transgender students and employees under federal laws that conflict with House Bill 2, which was signed into law on March 23. The letter makes clear that violating federal law could have serious legal and financial consequences for public schools and school districts. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the national American Civil Liberties Union, GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center also signed on to the letter.
Transgender public school students are especially at risk of suffering because of HB 2, which mandates restroom use in state and local government-owned buildings based on the sex listed on individuals’ birth certificates. The law could make it impossible for many transgender people to use the restroom at all, making going to school, work or even just leaving the home a difficult ordeal. This problem could be especially dire for transgender public school students, who spend the majority of their waking hours in school.
The letter informs school officials that HB 2’s blatant discrimination violates several federal laws, including Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs, and Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination by state and local government employers. In both cases, federal agencies have stated unambiguously that these federal nondiscrimination laws require that transgender people be treated according to their gender identity, including by being given the same access to restrooms and locker rooms that everyone else has.
Consequences for violating these federal laws could include lawsuits, investigations by federal agencies, and potential losses of federal funding. Meanwhile, HB 2 does not include any enforcement mechanisms, so the consequences for schools that violate the state law are unclear.