State must step in after Trump kills transgender rules in schools, NJEA says

Kelly Heyboer, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

New Jersey's largest teachers union called on the state education commissioner Thursday to restore some protections for transgender students after the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines.

Trump's education and justice departments released a letter earlier this week that reversed the Obama administration's position that schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

Instead, the Trump administration said the issue should be left to state and local officials.

The New Jersey Education Association, the union representing the majority of the state's teachers, slammed the Trump administration's withdrawal of federal protections for transgender students and called on the state education department to step in with new rules for New Jersey schools.

"We call on Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington to ensure that the protections extended to transgendered students last year remain in place in New Jersey. Nothing in the letter just issued prevents states from recognizing and protecting the established civil rights of students," top NJEA officials said in a joint statement.

State education department spokesman David Saenz declined to comment on the NJEA statement. Instead, he released a previous statement that said state regulations allow local school districts to decide how to handle the transgender bathroom question.

"Consistent with this regulatory provision, Acting New Jersey Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington will continue with the approach that then Commissioner David Hespe took last year when he said that school districts, through the local school boards, need to address the issue of gender identity through policy and that conversations need to happen on the local level so districts can craft their policies with community input," Saenz said.

Earlier in the day, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said she will continue pushing for the passage of a series of bills that would offer more protections for the transgender community in New Jersey.

One of the bills calls for a task force that would propose new rules for transgender students in schools.

"Transgender students already face disproportionate levels of bullying and discrimination in public schools. I am gravely disappointed that they no longer have an ally in the White House," Vainieri Huttle said.