by Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler
Teachers and educators are vital to the success of our children. As a former teacher, I know teachers are trusted to educate our kids and look out for their best interests, including their safety and right to privacy. I sent a letter this week to the superintendents and school boards of the public school districts in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District thanking them for the work they do making sure our youth get the education they deserve and also addressing a new government mandate that is very concerning.
Our educators have been put in a very difficult position, however. Last month, the Obama Administration—specifically the Departments of Justice and Education—sent a letter to all public school districts in the country claiming every school district is now required to accommodate students consistent with their chosen gender identity, not their biological sex from birth.
Under the implicit threat of withholding federal funding for the school district for noncompliance, this “guidance” would require schools to grant students access to restrooms, locker rooms, classes, athletic programs, housing and overnight accommodations, and other activities based on their students’ chosen gender identity rather than his or her biological sex.
This would allow a male student who asserts he is female to immediately gain access to girls’ locker rooms and restrooms, and vice versa. Not only does this guidance go against common sense, it also violates student privacy and potentially endangers students. Because of this, I urged the superintendents and school boards to reject the guidance and continue to respect and protect our students’ right to privacy and safety.
The guidance is flawed in many ways and should be rejected.
•This guidance is irresponsible and draconian. The federal government has no right to unilaterally impose these changes and threaten to remove federal funding from schools, robbing them of vital resources. These gestapo-like tactics are not only wrong, they jeopardize our students’ educations and futures.
•This guidance flies in the face of the Constitution. Law making authority is vested in the legislative branch, not the executive. The Administration has no legal authority to reinterpret the word “sex” contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to magically now mean “gender identity.” Our founders gave Congress legislative authority to determine definitions, not federal change-agent bureaucrats in the executive branch.
•This guidance ignores decades-old case law. For over 40 years courts across the country have interpreted Title IX to not include gender identity yet Washington decided to rewrite the law and impose a one-size-fits-all policy to local schools anyway. This is the definition of intrusive overreach by the federal government.
This overreach is wrong and I am doing all that I can to push back against this egregious federal overreach.
On the day the guidance was issued, I sent a letter to the President asking him to withdraw this flawed guidance and hold the Departments of Justice and Education accountable for wrongly expanding Title IX to include gender identity. I have joined almost 80 other members of Congress in sending a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary John King asking for clarification on the issued guidance. And, just last week, I called on Missouri Attorney General Koster to follow the lead of Texas and 10 other states and file a federal lawsuit challenging the guidance.
I have also cosponsored the Student Privacy Protection and Safety Act of 2016, introduced by Representative Brian Babin from Texas. This bill would prevent enforcement of the guidance by invalidating it. Other congressional actions are being discussed including making sure the government cannot withhold funds from schools until the matter has made its way through the courts—which may take years.
The bottom line is: mandates such as this do not improve access or level playing fields; they only treat our children as pawns in an extreme political game where political correctness is placed above sound policy. This violation of student privacy must be stopped.
I will continue opposing this gross overreach at every avenue and supporting the superintendents and school boards in Missouri’s Fourth in this matter as they, not the federal government, are best equipped to serve the children they educate.