The White House is expected to issue a sweeping declaration Friday to the nation's public schools mandating they take immediate steps to allow students to use whichever bathroom they feel best corresponds to their gender identity, the New York Times reported Thursday evening.
While the courts have not yet fully settled the issue of who can use what facility, the White House move ups the ante significantly.
The administration cannot compel schools to obey the edict, but the letter comes with its own implicit warning. If districts refuse, they could face the loss of federal funding and face lawsuits from the Justice Department similar to the one now bearing down on North Carolina.
"No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus," Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement, the Times reported. "We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence."
"A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so," the letter reads, the Times reported.
The Obama administration also included a 25-page addendum describing emerging practices including allowing students to change in bathroom stalls and providing curtains.
The move is almost certain to draw praise and criticism from predictable corners of the political spectrum. Controversy of North Carolina's HB2 "bathroom bill," mandating that children in the Tar Heel state must use a restroom corresponding to their gender assigned at birth, has divided the political spectrum. In the Republican presidential contest, it was a major issue for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz shortly before his candidacy collapsed in Indiana.
The culture war over who can pee where, however, may be short-lived. In one of their very few points of agreement, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have slammed the North Carolina law, with the mercurial billionaire candidate even inviting Caitlyn Jenner to use whichever bathrooms she wanted at Trump Tower in New York.