Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday called the Obama administration’s letter citing Title IX law to protect transgender students an “abuse of federal executive authority.”
The departments of Justice and Education jointly issued a letter Friday to public schools calling for protecting the rights of transgender students — and in particular the right to use a bathroom based upon the student’s “gender identity.”
The letter says public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.
Deal called for “as much uniformity across our state as possible” and asked state School Superintendent Richard Woods “to provide guidance to those local school systems seeking assistance and clarity on this issue.”
The governor said his office, the state school superintendent and attorney general “will work cooperatively to protect the interests of Georgia’s children.”
Deal also said, “While I do not believe this directive carries the force of law, the departments of Justice and Education have threatened to revoke federal funding from schools that fail to comply. “
Wording in the letter describes its directive as “significant guidance” that does not add requirements to the law.
However, it adds, the letter “provides information and examples to inform recipients about how the departments evaluate whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations.”
The Gainesville city school system issued a brief statement about the issue about 5 p.m. Monday.
“The Gainesville city school system understands that President Obama’s letter is not a mandate. We recognize that states are looking for how best to address,” the city schools’ statement says. “We will follow the federal guidance and work with families as we do for each of our students on a personalized basis.”
Will Schofield, Hall County school superintendent, sent an email to principals about the issue Friday.
“We continue to operate under the same procedures that have served our community for generations: The Hall County School District does not have ‘bathroom policies.’ In our district, boys use boys’ rooms and girls use girls’ rooms,” Schofield said in the email. “We also make single stall bathrooms available to families and/or individuals with accommodation issues.
“I encourage you to continue focusing on the issues that relate to caring for and educating our 28,000 boys and girls,” Schofield added.
Deal noted the state constitution and state laws require this kind of decision be made at the local level. He said the state’s 181 school systems “must each determine an appropriate response to this federal overreach.”
The federal letter also was issued just after the administration and North Carolina filed lawsuits against the other over the state’s recent bill that requires students to use bathrooms consistent with their birth gender.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.