Category Morality Issues
Title ACSI Memo Regarding the USDE/DOJ Guidance Letter on Transgender Students
Author/s Thomas J. Cathey, EdD
Preview On Friday, May 13, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released an announcement about the joint guidance on transgender students by USDE and the Department of Justice (DOJ). ACSI’s Legal Legislative Department is researching and discussing with the USDE Office of Non-Public Education just how this might impact our member Christian schools. The memo covers what actually was announced, the immediate impact on ACSI member schools, the impact on Title Funds, and what ACSI members schools should do at this point.
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Memo to ACSI Member Schools

Regarding the USDE/DOJ Guidance Letter on Transgender Students

On Friday, May 13, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released an announcement about the joint guidance on transgender students by USDE and the Department of Justice (DOJ). ACSI's Legal Legislative Department is researching and discussing with the USDE Office of Non-Public Education just how this might impact our member Christian schools.

What was actually announced on May 13, 2016?

The announcement was not legislation. It is not an enacted law. It was simply a statement and guidance letter. However, it was a strong recommendation to public schools, colleges, and universities, as it puts schools on notice that the USDE is reinterpreting Title IX prohibition on sex discrimination to include gender identity and transgender status. We believe that it will have significant implications both immediately and in the future.

What is the immediate impact on ACSI K-12 member schools?

There is no immediate impact. However, we believe there could be future implications. We encourage schools to continue to operate according to their biblical mission and standards. They can do so without fear of being forced to alter the schools' biblical beliefs or policies.

What about Title funds and other federal programs that are provided to Christian schools?

At this point, we can say that Title Services that are provided through the local education agency (LEA) have not been impacted. Those are services provided to teachers and students; therefore, there are no direct funds going to the Christian school. Member schools can still participate at this time with no fear of being forced to change their mission or biblical standards. Programs such as the National School Lunch program, CCDBG, or eRate currently have not been affected. However, ACSI will be monitoring these programs closely in the coming days and months because these are the most likely to be impacted.    

Are there programs that could be affected immediately by the guidance letter?

The most immediate impact may be interscholastic competitions with public schools as public schools begin to adopt new transgender policies in response to the USDE guidance. Athletic associations may begin to adopt new policies regarding sexual orientation and transgender status.

What should ACSI member schools do at this point?

Christian schools should be at the forefront of loving every child, because each child is created in the image of God. We are called to love God and each other. We are believers who desire for every child to know God's love, experience our love, be treated with dignity, and feel safe in the school environment. Schools should consider a review of their policies to ensure that our schools are true to their mission and to biblical standards and to ensure that our desires for each child are clearly reflected in policies.  

Christian schools should be hospitable places. Christian schools will likely begin to face the issue of interscholastic sports. Schools need to begin now to think of how they should handle visiting teams. Will there be Christ-honoring ways to accommodate the public school teams?  

It would be good to begin some strategic planning with school boards as to the financial implications of federal program participation and their impact on the budget.  

What's next?  

This memo is intended to address immediate issues related to the May 13, 2016, letter of guidance. As we have seen recently, human sexuality and gender identity seem to be at the forefront of a social and political agenda.   This is an appropriate time for our Christian schools to intentionally affirm their commitment to mission and biblical standards and to ensure that policies and practices are clear and not simply assumed.  

We do not know what is next. However, none of this surprises our God. God is still on the throne, and as our culture grows darker we need to shine the light of Christ even brighter. The Scriptures state that we should let our light shine before others so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Matthew 6:33–34 reminds us to seek first the kingdom of God and not to worry about tomorrow. Our God is in control.  

ACSI will continue to investigate and monitor any further developments related to this guidance letter. Our Washington DC Government Affairs office and the Colorado Springs Legal Legislative Office will continue to consult with the ONPE and other partners. Please contact the Legal Legislative Office with questions or concerns, including changes in athletic association policies or other state policies.

Notice: This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

Download ACSI Memo Regarding the USDE/DOJ Guidance Letter on Transgender Students