This is a good step forward for transgendered students.

Public schools must allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, the Obama administration announced Friday, escalating the pressure on the contentious public debate over transgender rights.

The civil rights offices of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a joint letter to school districts asserting that limiting transgender students to facilities consistent with their birth sex or to single-stall facilities not required for other students violates the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex, known as Title IX. Failure to comply with the directive would jeopardize districts’ federal funding under the law.

Education Secretary John B. King said Friday that the directive was issued in response to requests for guidance from school officials around the country.

“This was an attempt to provide clarity,” said King, who was en route to Wisconsin where he was scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Milwaukee Area Technical College on Friday evening.

“Fundamentally, the Department of Education is a civil rights agency,” King said. “We want to ensure that all of our students — whoever they are, wherever they come from — get an opportunity for a great education, free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

I expect this action by the federal Department of Education will be met with fierce opposition from conservative bigots who can’t accept or understand anyone who doesn’t fit into their narrow understanding of what it means to be a person.

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