The Biden administration shared a message with transgender students returning to school, telling them how to file federal complaints about discrimination in schools, a shot across the bow as the federal government – which has been expanding protections for trans youth this year – prepares for conflicts with states and school districts – many of which have spent the year attacking trans youth.
“The Department of Education and the entire federal government stands behind you,” said Department of Education Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg. “Your rights at school matter. You matter.”
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She and the other officials shared two websites for LGBTQ students to file discrimination complaints with the federal government, and Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the the Civil Rights Division said that the Biden administration will be investigating complaints of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in schools.
If it sounds like foreshadowing, that’s because Republican lawmakers all over the country filed over 100 anti-LGBTQ bills this year, many of which passed into law and will go into effect. They mostly targeted transgender youth, especially in schools, banning trans girls from participating in school sports. Other laws banned trans students from using the correct restrooms or banned schools from talking about LGBTQ people, even in the context of fighting bullying.
But while state Republican lawmakers were busy taking away protections and rights from transgender youth in 2021, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders that expanded civil rights protections to include LGBTQ people, and one of them focused specifically on schools.
The Biden administration has also showed that it’s willing to fight legal battles for trans youth, filing briefs in two states asking courts to overturn anti-transgender laws that it says are unconstitutional and violate federal laws like Title IX, which bans discrimination in education.
This has put the federal government on a collision course this year with some state and local governments, and Clarke and Goldberg both stressed that their respective departments want LGBTQ students to file complaints if they experience discrimination in school, which is likely to happen as schools implement the new state and local laws.
Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine, the first transgender official confirmed by the Senate, also appeared in the video.
“Discrimination and bullying have no place in our nation’s schools,” she said. “We all learn better when we are in safe and welcoming environments.”
“President Biden sent an unequivocal message to the transgender community: ‘To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people, I want you to know, your president has your back,” she continued, referring to a speech Biden gave in Congress in April.
“Well I want all of you to know: I have your back too.”