CHICAGO (CBS) — Civil rights advocates and LGBTQ activists denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back an Obama administration policy regarding transgender restroom access at public schools, accusing the president of being “cruel to children.”
Trump has reversed an Obama-era policy requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Although many schools in Illinois already have said they will keep such rules in place, the American Civil Liberties Union and several LGBTQ rights leaders denounced Trump’s move, accusing the administration of targeting transgender children for discrimination.
“This is about being cruel to children,” said ACLU Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka.
The White House has said rolling back the transgender restroom policy allows states and individual school districts to set their own rules regarding transgender bathroom access, but the ACLU and LGBTQ activists said that opens the door for bullying an at-risk community.
The activists said nearly 80 percent of transgender students in elementary and high school have reported mistreatment.
“Absolutely lives are at stake. We know that transgender youth are disproportionately at risk of suicidal ideations, of targets for violence – particularly in spaces like restrooms and locker rooms,” said Owen Daniel McCarter, executive director of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, an advocacy group for LGBTQ students.
Christopher Clark, Midwest regional director for Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights group, represents the transgender sister of Jackie Evancho, who performed at Trump’s inauguration.
Evancho has spoken out in support of her sister, Juliet, who is suing her Pennsylvania school district over bathroom access.
The siblings have requested a meeting with Trump to discuss the issue. Clark said they are still waiting to hear back from the White House.
Clark also said the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 still protect all students from discrimination, including transgender children, regardless of Trump’s decision to rescind the Obama administration’s restroom guidelines.
“I want to make one thing very clear today. If a school district acts, because of what happened yesterday, in a way that discriminates transgender students, we will sue that school district,” Clark said.
The Chicago Public Schools and Elgin School District U-46 – the two largest school districts in Illinois – both have said they will keep in place their policies allowing transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.