Washington Education Watch, May 2016 Special Edition

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Restroom Rules from the Federal Government

We live in a fallen world. It is not the way the Lord originally created it, nor is it the perfect place that the Lord has planned for our future.

We also live in a culture that prefers to deny this truth and believes that if the majority says something, it is true; that clearly is a lie, the majority view can alter reality.

This is the context in which the Department of Education and Department of Justicesent guidance on how to handle issues around transgenderism and public school facilities to every school district in the nation. You may want to read the Dear Colleague” letter yourself. The most controversial portion related to restrooms and locker rooms reads,

Restrooms and Locker Rooms – A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.   A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy.

Washington Education Watch, May 2016 Special Edition

“Dear Colleague” letters do not have the force of law. They are used to inform districts of practices that will help them from running afoul of the law. In this case the letter has an implied threat that school districts who do not comply with the “guidance,” may lose federal education funding or be sued by the Federal Government. This is a powerful threat to many school districts who do not want to spend their limited resources fighting the unlimited legal resources of theDepartment of Justice or see their funding for disadvantaged students reduced.

As Christians, we have access to a clear view of the truth. Even though we too are tainted by sin, have the humbling responsibility to share the truth with this fallen world. So what is the truth in this matter?

Legally, we are blessed to live in a nation of laws, and it is very likely that in this instance the law has been violated. This “Dear Colleague” letter is widely thought to be an illegal federal overreach and some districts and organizations are contemplating legal action on two grounds.

First, The Federal Government under the Constitution has no authority to regulate schools.  While various Presidents have worked hard to expand their power by tying administrative mandates to acceptance of federal education funds, this has not been authorized by the Constitution or CongressCongress recently made this clear in their reigning in of the Department of Education’s coercion of states to adopt the Common Core Standards that such practices are not authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  For many years local and state authorities have done a great job caring for all students and regulating bathroom usage in a manner that is respectful toward all students.  It is hard to understand why anyone thinks that federal officials in Washington DC could do a better job, care more about the students, or even suggest how restrooms should be regulated.

Second, the “Dear Colleague” letter, attempts to stretch the interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include transgenderism under the gender equity provisions of the law. The specific language in question was passed in 1971 and reads:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except that ….”
Clearly no one in Congress in 1971 would have thought that this language would have allowed students with gender identity questions to use anything other than the restroom and locker room matching their biological birth gender.  If the President wants a law extending this to transgenderism, a new law would need to be passed by the Congress.

Medical experts are divided on the issue. Paul McHugh, MD, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, recently wrote, “gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder.”  In Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme McHugh argues that the condition is best treated in youth though family therapy rather than through surgical or hormone treatment. He cites the tragic statistic that in studies in Sweden indicate that, “ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers.”  While some psychiatrists would disagree with McHugh’s conclusions, we know that truth is not a matter of majority vote, even an overwhelming majority vote by experts.

Not surprisingly Scripture has quite a lot to say about gender assignment, the sense of shame about our bodies, and the importance of privacy – and most of it is explained in Genesis.

In the original, perfect creation, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (1:27) One chapter later it is reaffirmed that the Lord created man and woman as distinctly different to support and complement each other:

 But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (2:20-22)

It is very noteworthy that Genesis 2:24 tells us that, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  So separate gender restrooms would not have been an issue in the Garden. But immediately after Satan enticed us and we fell, privacy became an issue:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:7)

In spite of their rebellion the Lord still loved his creation and went so far as to create more suitable clothing for them to use to cover their shame, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (3:21) Providing these leather garments required the Lord to kill an animal for the leather. Many theologians believe this instituted the ritual of blood sacrifices for sin, and foreshadowed God’s plan to restore us to a perfect condition through the sacrifice of the Lord’s own Son, Jesus Christ, to cover all of our sin and shame.

So we should not be at all surprised that issues around our gender, shame about what we look like, and how we can cover ourselves from others are items we need to deal with. Federal officials miss the mark widely when they think that the issue of transgender restrooms is one of equality being pitted against uncomfortable feelings some may have in sharing a restroom with others of a different biological gender. The issues around this are profoundly moral and have a huge impact on the religious liberties and the related expectations of privacy of all students.

School restrooms have always been places where girls and guys congregate to talk about things they wish to keep hidden from other gendered students and at times have been places where students engage in activities that are forbidden by school rules.  Locker rooms have often been places where students have been shamed by others because they are not perfect. All of this is wrong and sinful.

We all need to be prepared to speak out in love and truth on these important issues. We each have different gifts and a different calling, so each of us may find a different way to express ourselves. It may be though a letter to the President, speaking with a school board member, or by signing this online petition to speaker Ryan from the Family Research Council . For many Christian teachers it will be through a kind, encouraging word toward a student or colleague who appears to be struggling with their gender identity, or by disciplining students who mock another student for any reason.  We are saved by a God of infinite love and we need to strive to live out that truth. Part of living out that truth is acknowledging there really is only one way to heal our sin and shame, and be restored to eternal life with the Lord, and that is by accepting the Lord’s sacrifice of Jesus for each of our sins.

You can address your comments on these issues or other federal education issues to JMitchell@ceai.org. John Mitchell is the Washington, DC Area Director for the Christian Educators Association.

© 2016 Christian Educators Association International www.ceai.org / 888.798.1124

Washington Education Watch 05/16/2016 Used with permission.

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