Trump empowered these Kansas school administrators to take away trans kids' rights

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A school board in Derby, Kan., voted to disallow transgender students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity after Trump lifted the Obama administration's guidance on federal statute Title IX, BuzzFeed reported. 

"Trump was basically leaving it up to us," Tina Prunier, a member of the Derby Board of Education, told BuzzFeed. "I thought it would be best for the district overall."

President Donald J. TrumpSource: Luis M. Alvarez/AP
President Donald J. Trump  Luis M. Alvarez/AP

According to BuzzFeed, the district voted to allow transgender students to use the restroom that matched their gender identity after Obama issued his interpretation of Title IX, the 1972 statute that bans sex discrimination in publicly funded schools. The Obama administration affirmed that the statute also applied to gender identity and therefore protected transgender students wishing to access the restroom of their choice.

However, in February, the White House backed off the guidance, asserting the matter is best left up to the states. After Trump lifted Obama's directive, Derby, Kan., passed its own ban, 5-2. 

BuzzFeed said Prunier had a difficult time explaining why she believed in the ban. 

"To be quite honest, it's not something I have gone over in my mind," she said when asked how the ban would benefit her district. "It's not something I feel strongly one way or another about — their personal rights or how they wish to be." 

Prunier said parents in her district were vocal in their desire for a ban.

"We mostly heard about a male going into a female bathroom to violate or do things they weren't supposed to be doing in the restroom," she added. She said, however, that she was not aware of any such issue ever being reported. 

Craig Wilford, the superintendent of Derby Public Schools, estimated that there are fewer than 10 transgender students in his district and confirmed they had only gotten requests from two students to use the facilities that match their gender identity. 

"I do know we gave students who disagreed with allowing transgender students to use the restroom an option to request different accommodations," Wilford told BuzzFeed

Derby's decision to reverse its prior ruling is not actually in line with the Trump administration's views, however. In an earlier interview with Mic, Joshua Block, ACLU lawyer and lead counsel in the upcoming Supreme Court case for transgender 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, told Mic that Trump did not reverse the directive but has taken a "neutral" stance.

Gavin GrimmSource: Steve Helber/AP
Gavin Grimm  Steve Helber/AP

"There's not an opinion from DOJ going the other way," Block said. "They haven't said, 'Now we allow the regulation to permit this.' They're now taking a neutral view." 

And, as much as Trump's view is neutral, Block said, the law is the law — and that includes the protections put in place under Title IX.

"Sex discrimination in public schools hasn't been something left up to the states since 1972; that's the entire purpose of Title IX," Block said. "We decided as a country in 1972 that the federal government is going to protect anyone no matter what zip code they live in against sex discrimination."

Demoya Gordon, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed the organization is ready to file lawsuits against school districts like Derby. 

"There is no staying out of this issue," Gordon said. "This is a federal civil-rights issue."