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Local school system speaks out on transgender bathroom order
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The ripple effects of President Barack Obama's administration's directive regarding the treatment of transgender students and their access to both restrooms and locker rooms continue to make their way to school administrators at both the state and county levels nationwide.

After the administration's release of the "Dear Colleague" letter on May 13, there was immediate and dramatic response from state lawmakers ranging from outright defiance to carefully worded resistance.

"What I have told every parent that has called about the issue, a couple of things are absolutes with us. We are going to meet the needs of our students as we have always done and we are not going to have gang, unisex restrooms in Dawson County," Dawson County Superintendent Damon Gibbs said.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education's joint letter squarely places the issue of transgender students and their use of school facilities, be it a bathroom or locker room, within the confines and protections of Title IX and links it directly to federal funding.

The letter was prompted by the administration's current court battle with North Carolina over House Bill 2, which deals with transgender bathroom access.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1972 to prohibit sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.

The president's guidance is not legally binding, but it does imply that failure to comply with the outlined provisions equates to contesting Title IX, with the result being the loss of federal funding.

"We cooperate with Title IX," Gibbs said.

Gov. Nathan Deal released a statement saying the guidance does not carry the force of law and that it adds "confusion and controversy." He called upon State School Superintendent Richard Woods to provide "additional guidance" to Georgia's local schools.

Woods followed Deal's direction to provide more guidance by sending a letter to all of the school superintendents on Friday afternoon.

Woods did not mince words.

In the letter, Woods called Obama's guidance an "overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the federal government."

Woods also directly told all local superintendents that school systems in Georgia do not have to comply.

"As this guidance does not have the force of law, you are not required to comply with this directive or make changes to your established actions and policies," the letter reads.

The letter goes on to clarify that should any federal funds be withheld or a suit is brought, the state will work with districts on appropriate action.

Woods also made clear the importance of local control and its roots in Georgia law, the same sentiment Gibbs echoed.

"It's a pretty simple issue for us," said Gibbs. "We are going to continue to do what we've always done and that's to meet the needs of our children. I really don't have a statement about the president's issue because the state allows us a great deal of flexibility with local control to meet the needs of our kids.

"What we are trying to do from the school system standpoint is to encourage folks to just not get overly worked up about this because ultimately this will not be forced upon us by a single human being."

Woods' letter also said that he does not "believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker room alongside students of the opposite sex."

He concluded by reminding the superintendents: "Our priority in Georgia is to provide all children with the opportunity to receive a great education, and we should not allow federal politics to distract us from that priority."

 

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