By Briana Vannozzi
“My daughter is a girl. She deserves equal and safe access to schools and education just like anybody else,” said mother Jamie Bruesehoff.
But Bruesehoff is concerned protections for her 10-year-old trans daughter Rebecca may be in jeopardy with the Trump administration’s reversal of an Obama-era directive allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and facilities of their choice in public schools.
“The district we’re in has an excellent policy for transgender students that affirms and supports her and that’s why she’s thriving because she can go to school and be herself. And she says, ‘I don’t think about being transgender at school, I think about doing my work and hanging out with my friends and I’m just a girl.’ Without those protections she couldn’t do that,” Bruesehoff said.
It’s considered a major step for conservative groups who felt the federal government had no right interfering in the matter. The Obama administration threatened to withhold funding for schools that didn’t comply. This new policy leaves it to states and individual school districts to create their own rules. Currently 12 New Jersey school districts have guidelines in place, but another 600 do not.
“When you look at Title IX, it was enacted in 1972. The idea that this was even contemplated at that [time] is preposterous on its face. But that doesn’t mean that the president, the president obviously understands the issue and the challenges that especially young children face. He just believes that this is a state issue that needs to be addressed by states as he does with a lot of other issues that we’ve talked about,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
“Protecting students should never be left up to the state. One trans student in New Jersey shouldn’t be protected while a trans student in Pennsylvania is not. It’s not a states issue. It’s a federal issue and that’s why it’s important for the federal government to continue to protect our young people,” said Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino.
Garden State Equality presented guidance on transgender issues to the New Jersey Department of Education roughly a year ago, but the executive director says it’s stalled. Though he adds, families shouldn’t panic.
“Trans students in New Jersey are going to feel little impact by this guidance coming from the Trump administration. We do have protections in this state. Title IX is still in effect and the students do have their rights,” Fuscarino said.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle is dropping legislation Monday to implement statewide guidelines.
“It would create a uniform policy, it would provide a safe and supportive environment and would especially allow for the use of restrooms and locker rooms in accordance with one’s identity,” she said.
“It should be a local issue decided by the states, individually. And that an executive order signed by the president, a one-size-fits-all policy for all 50 United States to implement this policy does not make sense,” said Sen. Mike Doherty.
Schools will now be looking to their state governments for clarity, something Bruesehoff says she hopes comes soon.