Washington HRC reiterates: Transgender students are still able to use bathroom of choice

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Transgender students in Washington state will still be allowed to use the bathroom of the 
CALEB WALSH ILLUSTRATION
  • Caleb Walsh Illustration
gender they identify with, despite the recent decision by President Donald Trump's administration to revoke guidance to protect those rights nationally.

The Washington State Human Rights Commission reiterated in a Tuesday, Feb. 28 statement that Washington law on civil rights protections, along with clarifications the commission made in 2015, remains unchanged by the federal guidance. Last week, Washington's Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal also said the state rules would continue to protect Washington students.

Equal treatment of people is required by the Washington State Law Against Discrimination.

"Standing together with Governor Inslee and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Human Rights Commission will protect the rights of one of our most vulnerable populations, transgender youth," the commission states.

The statement comes in response to a decision to revoke guidance from the Obama administration's Education and Justice departments last year that schools let transgender students use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, or risk losing federal funding.

The new guidance still says that all schools need to ensure LGBT students and all students "are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment."

Critics of the Washington commission's December 2015 guidance, which clarified that state protections guaranteed access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and facilities according to someone's gender identity, often brought up concerns that the rule could open the door for sexual predators to hide in women's or girls' bathrooms under false pretenses and prey on others.

Supporters, meanwhile, pointed out that it is already illegal for someone to stalk, assault, or otherwise prey on someone else, and that many transgender people face discrimination for simply trying to go to the restroom. According to a Washington, D.C., survey of 93 transgender and gender-nonconforming people, about 70 percent said they had either been denied access to bathrooms, been harassed while using a bathroom, or been physically assaulted in a restroom.

Transgender people are also more likely than the general population to be sexually abused and assaulted, with one in two experiencing some sexual abuse or assault in their life, according to the Office of Justice Programs.