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Arkansas university changes restroom policy for transgender students

Saturday, May 26, 2012
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FORT SMITH, Ark. — An Arkansas university has changed its restroom policies after a transgender student filed a complaint with the U.S Department of Justice.

The University of Arkansas Fort Smith said its ladies rest rooms are now open to female-identifying transgender students; previously the school only allowed transgender individuals to use gender-neutral or unisex bathrooms.

The policy change was prompted by Jennifer Braly, a 38-year-old UAFS junior who is a transgender woman. Braly was upset after being instructed to use only gender-neutral restrooms on campus; she said she previously used the women’s restrooms and gender-neutral restrooms until another student complained.

R. Mark Horn, the school’s Vice-Chancellor, said the policy change was made after the Justice Department sent a letter to the university system’s lawyers, reported Inside Higher Ed.

The university wouldn’t make that letter available, citing federal privacy laws, but Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa confirmed that a letter had been sent informing the university of the complaint.

Hinojosa said the letter did not direct the university to take any specific action.

“Consistent with our standard practice of notifying schools in writing that the department has received a complaint, the department simply advised the university that it was reviewing the complaint to determine whether there had been a violation of the federal laws enforced by the department that prohibit sex discrimination,” a DOJ spokesperson said.

The university would not comment on the specifics of Braly’s complaint, and only said that transgender students are now allowed to use restrooms based on the individual’s gender identity.

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