Title IX update: Feb. 2 guidance will not affect Wilkes

Wilkes reacts to Title IX guidance rescinding federal protection of transgender students

Toni Pennello, Assistant News Editor

A new Title IX guidance issued by the Trump administration on Feb. 2 that reversed federal protections for transgender students will not affect protections on the Wilkes campus, administrators say.

In May, The Departments of Education and Justice jointly issued a “Dear Colleague” letter which reinterpreted Title IX to include gender identity as well as biological sex. This meant protection for transgender students, whose schools were thereby required to allow them to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

At Wilkes, this meant the addition of 40 all-gender bathrooms on campus. These were previously single stall, “family” restrooms whose signs were changed to read “all-gender.”

In addition to the restrooms, students were given the opportunity to use their preferred names on their email addresses and attendance rosters.

A new guidance issued on Feb. 2 rescinded this clarification, giving the decision of including protection of transgender students under Title IX to states and localities.

Each of these clarifications were not law, but simply guidance. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the issue, and, in response to the Trump administration’s rescinding of the original guidance, will no longer hear the case that would put federal protection for transgender students into law.

According to a New York Times article published the day the hearing was cancelled, the case “will almost certainly return to the Supreme Court, probably in a year or two.”

As for the way this will affect Wilkes, it won’t.

“Here at Wilkes, nothing is changing. We are continuing in our efforts that we had before President Obama’s administration issued their guidance, and also now after President Trump rescinded that,” said Samantha Hart, Title IX coordinator.

Hart stated that the university will continue doing work to better its protection of transgender students, and the program is currently working on a brochure.

“It has been our position that students are able to utilize the restrooms that align with their gender identity… we are not changing any of our positions,” she added. “We still are remaining the safe, inclusive and respectful environment that we were before this happened.”

President Patrick Leahy issued a statement on Feb. 27 that promised students the same. Leahy described the University’s actions regarding Title IX as a  “comprehensive approach that is dedicated to promoting and protecting fundamental rights, advancing our institutional integrity, and upholding the spirit and letter of Title IX.”

Hart stated that there has been no push-back from either students or faculty regarding the efforts to remain inclusive to transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

“The university really recognizes that these are what our values are, regardless of what this guidance says. President Trump says that it’s up to us to decide how we want to treat this, and that’s what we are doing. We’re treating it in alignment with our core values here at Wilkes.”