AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Answers to common questions about a ruling by a federal judge who blocked an Obama administration directive on bathroom rights for transgender students in U.S. public schools:
Q: WHAT HAPPENED?
A: Hundreds of school districts reopening Monday after summer break awoke to news that the judge had ruled that the Obama administration, at least for now, cannot require public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. The decision by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor comes after 13 states sued over the directive issued in May.
Q: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SCHOOLS?
A: Legal experts say schools that allow transgender students to choose their facilities can continue doing so. But schools that do not are spared from having to expand bathroom access for transgender students or from risking being out of compliance with the federal government.
Q: WHY DID THE JUDGE HALT THE DIRECTIVE?
A: O'Connor sided with state Republican leaders who argued that federal officials skirted rules requiring an opportunity for comment before directives are issued. He also found that Title IX, a federal law that bars sex discrimination in schools, "is not ambiguous" about sex being defined as "the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth."
Q: WHAT'S NEXT?
A: Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said federal officials were disappointed in the ruling and were reviewing their options. Civil rights lawyers say transgender students can still bring their own lawsuits against schools that do not allow them to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Q: WHAT STATES WERE INVOLVED IN THE LAWSUIT?
A: The lawsuit was filed in May by Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia, and the Republican governors of Maine, Mississippi and Kentucky. Two small school districts in Arizona and Texas, which have fewer than 600 students combined and no transgender persons on their campuses, also joined the effort to prevent the directive from being enforced.
Q: HOW MANY TRANSGENDER STUDENTS MIGHT BE AFFECTED?
A: The number of transgender students in U.S. public schools is unclear, but in June, a team of experts estimated that about 1.4 million adults in the country identify as transgender. That's double the estimate from a decade ago, according to demographer Gary Gates, who worked on the survey with other scholars at the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law that specializes in research on issues affecting lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
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