WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of parents across the country have called on President Donald Trump to embrace Obama-era protections for transgender students that allow them use to school bathrooms in accord with their gender identity.
In a letter sent to the president by the Human Rights Campaign late Tuesday, more than 780 parents stressed that "all students deserve equal access to a safe, welcoming school and a high quality education no matter who they are."
The call follows a decision by the Trump administration last week to abandon a defense of the guidelines that had been issued by the Obama administration. A court issued an injunction against those guidelines last summer in response to a lawsuit filed by 13 states. President Barack Obama appealed the injunction, but the Trump administration decided to back off from that appeal.
Parents of transgender students say that revoking the right of students to use school bathrooms according to their gender identity amounts to discrimination and creates a hostile learning environment for transgender students. "These policies are wrong, they hurt our children, and they violate the principle of equal education," the letter said.
Vanessa Ford, an education activist in Washington, D.C., whose 5-year-old daughter Ellie is transgender, said that forcing her to use one-stall individual bathrooms — which are usually located in the nurse's office — or the boys' bathroom would cause her pain.
"She would cry. She would withdraw," Ford wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post last year. "She would feel alone, shameful, and unwelcome by her teachers and her peers."
Conservative activists firmly oppose the idea, saying it endangers the privacy and safety of other students and infringes on their civil rights.
Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, says such protections for transgender students "will not result in what advocates claim is 'Fairness for All.' Instead, they will penalize many Americans who believe that we are created male and female and that male and female are created for each other," Anderson wrote.
Newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not voiced a position on the bathrooms controversy other than to say that she is against discrimination and will support all students.
During the election campaign Trump said that transgender students can use the bathroom they like.
An estimated 0.7 percent of youth ages 13-17 in the United Sates, or about 150,000 people, identify as transgender, according to a study by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.