President Barack Obama said on Monday that his administration’s guidance on transgender issues is needed to help schools grapple with the sensitive topic and ensure that all children are treated fairly.
Obama, in an interview with BuzzFeed news website broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube, said schools had been asking the Department of Education how they should handle questions they were facing with transgender youths.
“We think it was important for schools who want to go ahead and, in a very practical way, try to deal with the school year – What are they going to be doing next year? How should we approach this? – that we give them our best judgment about how to approach it,” Obama said.
The Obama administration told U.S. public schools on Friday that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, upsetting Republicans and raising the likelihood of fights over federal funding and legal authority.
The Education and Justice Departments told school districts nationwide that while the guidance carries no legal weight, they must not discriminate against students, including based on their gender identity.
Obama, who has two teenaged daughters, elaborated on the decision.
“We’re talking about kids. And anybody who’s been in school, been in high school, who’s been a parent, I think, should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority, kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender are subject to a lot of bullying, potentially,” Obama said.
“They are vulnerable. And I think that it’s part of our obligation as a society to make sure that everybody is treated fairly and our kids are all loved and that they’re protected and that their dignity is affirmed,” he said.