The fallout from Georgia Republican leadership following the Obama administration’s May 13 “Dear Colleague Letter,” which issued direction on bathroom use for transgender students in public schools continues. The latest negative reaction is a letter sent on behalf of Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods on May 20.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who also criticized the Obama directive, asked Woods to provide guidance to the 181 schools within the Georgia school system.

In an e-mail sent to all school district superintendents, Woods characterized the trans directive as an “overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the federal government,” and offered support to those within the school district who chose to defy the directive.

As this guidance does not have the force of law, you are not required to comply with this directive or make changes to your established actions and policies. However, if the federal government does decide to withhold federal funds, enforce this directive, or bring suit against any district in Georgia because of a decision a local district makes, we will work with all parties to take appropriate action.

Woods then attempts to make the case for ensuring a safe school environment while addressing the needs of each individual student as they arise, unless of course, that student happens to be transgender.

There are fundamental elements in all public schools, including a safe school environment and an appropriate response to the needs of individual students. Those two elements are essential and compatible and are the responsibility of local school systems.

My first priority is to ensure our schools are a safe environment for students. I believe there are safety and privacy concerns associated with allowing students of different genders to use the same bathroom and locker rooms. For that reason, I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker room alongside students of the opposite sex.

This is not the first time Woods has blasted the directive on transgender students issued by the Obama administration. In an interview with WSB, a defiant Woods told the station that he “would not let the federal government bully Georgia by threatening us with the removal of funds,” adding that he didn’t see the directive as a mandate.

Many LGBT groups praised Obama’s decision to issue guidance to allow transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. But the reaction from some in Georgia, particularly Fannin County, has been rife with protests, derogatory language and religious bigotry, which appears to be filtering from the top down.

Woods’ full letter sent to school district superintendents can be read below.

Dear Superintendents:

On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” regarding the rights of transgender students in the K-12 education setting.

We at the Georgia Department of Education believe the “Dear Colleague Letter” openly violates, misinterprets and moves to rewrite established U.S. law. This overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the federal government is compounded by the threat to withhold federal funds should the context of the letter not be followed.

As this guidance does not have the force of law, you are not required to comply with this directive or make changes to your established actions and policies. However, if the federal government does decide to withhold federal funds, enforce this directive, or bring suit against any district in Georgia because of a decision a local district makes, we will work with all parties to take appropriate action.

The doctrine of “local control” is deeply rooted in our constitution and laws here in Georgia, and I am confident that you, as the superintendent of your district, along with your board of education and with counsel and support from your local board attorney, will continue to appropriately address concerns surrounding this complex and sensitive matter.

There are fundamental elements in all public schools, including a safe school environment and an appropriate response to the needs of individual students. Those two elements are essential and compatible and are the responsibility of local school systems.

My first priority is to ensure our schools are a safe environment for students. I believe there are safety and privacy concerns associated with allowing students of different genders to use the same bathroom and locker rooms. For that reason, I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker room alongside students of the opposite sex.

In closing, I wish to thank you and the staff in your districts and schools for your excellent work and commitment to your children. Our priority in Georgia is to provide all children with the opportunity to receive a great education, and we should not allow federal politics to distract us from that priority.

Respectfully,

Richard Woods
State School Superintendent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.