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Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Betsy DeVos called Obama's rules to protect transgender students 'overreach'


UPDATE, Feb.23 at 2:38 p.m.: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Thursday described former President Obama's guidelines that allowed transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom of their choice as "overreach." 

"This issue was a very huge example of the Obama administration's overreach," DeVos said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "To suggest a one-size-fits-all federal government approach, top-down approach, to issues that are best dealt with and solved at a personal level and a local level."

UPDATE 7:13pm | The Trump administration has reportedly rolled back federal guidelines that protected transgender students, citing legal confusion, the Associated Press reported. 

The move comes hours after White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump thought the issue was best left to the states and that "further guidance" would be released on Wednesday.

The shift in policy retracts an  Obama-era directive issued in May that said transgender students should be allowed to use public school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. 

The Justice and Education departments sent a letter to schools across the nation saying that the earlier directive caused confusion. It said the guidance didn't “contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did they undergo any formal public process."

Original story

The Trump administration may roll back Obama-era rules that required schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump thought the issue was best left to the states. In contrast, Obama said the transgender bathroom issue fell under the gender discrimination rules laid out in Title IX and was thus a federal issue. 

Spicer said the Justice Department and Education Department would issue a joint statement after reviewing the Obama-era policy. Even if the ruling on bathrooms is removed, federal law would still prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Spicer also said the administration will announce a legal position on a separate case before the Supreme Court involving a transgender boy who could not use the boy's bathroom at his Virginia school

Despite the administration releasing guidance today, Spicer said that the issue was not a priority for Trump. "There is a case pending in the Supreme Court in which we have to decide whether or not we have to continue to issue guidance to the court," he said. "It's plain and simple. It's incumbent on us to actually follow the law and to recognize that Title IX never talked about this."

Trump was supportive of trans rights during his campaign, saying that Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she wanted at Trump Tower.

FILE - In this June 24, 2016 file photo, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory speaks during a candidate forum in Charlotte, N.C. The NCAA has pulled seven championship events from North Carolina, including opening-weekend men's basketball tournament games, for the coming year due to a state law that some say can lead to discrimination against LGBT people. In a news release Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, the NCAA says the decision by its board of governors came "because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections." The law known as HB2 was signed into law by Gov. McCrory earlier this year. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Under former Gov. Pat McCrory (pictured), North Carolina, so far, is the only state to rule trans people can only use bathrooms based on their biological sex. Lawmakers in at least 10 states have prepared similar legislation.

It's an invitation to harm the most vulnerable kids in school.
Rachel Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal

Obama's rulings did not carry the force of law, but warned schools they could lose funding if they did not comply. 

Conservatives called the bill an example of government overreach, while LGBT advocates say that removing the guidance will put the 150,000 youth who identify as transgender at risk. 

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned any talk of removing Obama's rules.

The Human Rights Campaign urged Trump to change his mind.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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