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Georgia school chief issues own guidance on transgender bathrooms. Cites privacy, safety concerns


Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods issued guidance today to school districts regarding the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague Letter” on transgender students and school restrooms.

In its letter of guidance last week, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice said districts must under Title IX ensure transgender students can use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity.

The Woods letter, sent to district superintendents, came in response to a request from Gov. Nathan Deal that GaDOE “provide guidance to those local school systems seeking assistance and clarity on this issue in order to ensure that there will be as much uniformity across our state as possible.”

Here is the letter:

Dear Superintendents:

On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” regarding the rights of transgender students in the K-12 education setting.

We at the Georgia Department of Education believe the "Dear Colleague Letter" openly violates, misinterprets and moves to rewrite established U.S. law. This overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the federal government is compounded by the threat to withhold federal funds should the context of the letter not be followed.

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. However, if the federal government does decide to withhold federal funds, enforce this directive, or bring suit against any district in Georgia because of a decision a local district makes, we will work with all parties to take appropriate action.

The doctrine of "local control" is deeply rooted in our constitution and laws here in Georgia, and I am confident that you, as the superintendent of your district, along with your board of education and with counsel and support from your local board attorney, will continue to appropriately address concerns surrounding this complex and sensitive matter.

There are fundamental elements in all public schools, including a safe school environment and an appropriate response to the needs of individual students. Those two elements are essential and compatible and are the responsibility of local school systems.

My first priority is to ensure our schools are a safe environment for students. I believe there are safety and privacy concerns associated with allowing students of different genders to use the same bathroom and locker rooms. For that reason, I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker room alongside students of the opposite sex.

In closing, I wish to thank you and the staff in your districts and schools for your excellent work and commitment to your children. 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.

Respectfully,

Richard Woods

State School Superintendent

 


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.