By Simon Lewis and Tessa Berenson
Updated: May 13, 2016 10:57 AM ET

The Obama Administration wrote every public school district in the country Friday warning local administrators they have to let transgender students use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

The guidance signed by Justice and Education officials, while not a legal decree, implicitly threatens noncompliant schools with lawsuits or the withdrawal of federal funding.

“As a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities unless expressly authorized to do so under Title IX or its implementing regulations,” the letter, posted Friday on the Department of Justice website, says. “The Departments treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.”

“When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” the letter continues.

The directive will draw the ire of conservatives who accuse the administration of overreaching on LGBT rights by trying to overrule local decisions. It has already angered Texas; Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told NBC 5 after the advice was first reported, “This will be the beginning of the end of the public school system as we know it.”

“President Obama, in the dark of the night – without consulting Congress, without consulting educators, without consulting parents – decides to issue an executive order, like this superintendent, forcing transgender policies on schools and on parents who clearly don’t want it,” Patrick said.

The Obama Administration’s letter comes on the heels of the Justice Department’s opposition to North Carolina’s attempt to require transgender people to use bathrooms matching their biological sex.

 

Write to Simon Lewis at simon_daniel.lewis@timeasia.com and Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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