Federal funding jeopardized by transgender bathroom legislation, according to Tenn. AG

Office of the Attorney General says bill may violate Title IX laws.

FILE- In this Aug. 23, 2007, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. Nearly all of the nation's 20 largest cities, including New York City, have local or state nondiscrimination laws that allow transgender people to use whatever bathroom they identify with, though a debate has raged around the topic nationwide. Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, signed an executive order on Monday, March 7, 2016, that guarantees people access to single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity at city facilities, including offices, pools and recreation centers, without the need to show identification or any other proof of gender. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

NASHVILLE (WATE) – A Tennessee House panel has revived a bill seeking to require public school students to use restrooms that match their sex at birth, but the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office finds if the bill passes it will put Title IX funding at risk.

Henry Seaton, a transgender high school senior, listens during a House subcommittee hearing about a bill seeking to require school children to use restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates, Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Seaton told the panel that he has had to use a teacher’s bathroom at his school because he was not allowed to use either the boys or girls facilities. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
Henry Seaton, a transgender high school senior, listens during a House subcommittee hearing about a bill seeking to require school children to use restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates, Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Seaton told the panel that he has had to use a teacher’s bathroom at his school because he was not allowed to use either the boys or girls facilities. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery said that the proposed legislation would have the effect of banning transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity or expression. Current Title IX laws require education programs and activities that receive federal funds to not discriminate on the basis of sex.

“If a transgender student is required by a school district in Tennessee to use a restroom or locker room facility that is consistent with his or her anatomical gender rather than his or her gender expression or gender identity, and if that student files a complaint, DOE, applying its current interpretation of Title IX, will almost certainly require the school district to permit the student access to the facility consistent with his or her gender expression, and refusal to do so could very well result in loss of federal funding—at least until DOE’s interpretation is overruled by authoritative and binding judicial decision,” stated Attorney General Slatery.

State Reps. Kevin Dunlap, D-McMinnville, and Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, confer during a House Education Administration and Planning Committee meeting in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Dunlap and Brooks were among the majority of the committee that voted to revive a bill seeking to require students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
State Reps. Kevin Dunlap, D-McMinnville, and Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, confer during a House Education Administration and Planning Committee meeting in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Dunlap and Brooks were among the majority of the committee that voted to revive a bill seeking to require students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

Slatery sited similar legislation that is already facing a legal challenge in North Carolina. The plaintiffs have challenged the legislation for not only discrimination, but also because it infringes on privacy rights of transgender people by requiring them to disclose personal information who sees them using the facility. He says Tennessee could face similar legal challenges.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero also spoken against the bill, saying it would “feed an atmosphere of intolerance that would negatively affect the lives of local families and students, and also could have damaging consequences for tourism and economic development.” However, Representative Eddie Smith, a proponant of the bill said it would serve a positive function, by protecting students from unwanted harassment and even sexual assault.

“This bill really the intent of it is to protect the children in our school systems,” Smith said. “We really looked at it from an educational standpoint. How do we protect our students in the school systems? How do we keep it so that it doesn’t cause a disruption in the school system? Those were the issues that we focused on.”

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