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Obama to order public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms, locker rooms of choice

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WASHINGTON – President Obama plans to issue a directive to every public school in the country, ordering them to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms or locker rooms that conform to their gender identity, according to a report from The New York Times on Thursday evening.

The administration will send out a letter Friday signed by the Justice and Education departments.

The Times reports that the edict won’t have the force of law – schools fall under state jurisdiction, not federal – but schools could lose out on federal funding or face lawsuits if they fail to comply.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” John B. King Jr., the secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement to the Times. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

The Washington Post said the letter to be sent to every public school district will come from two top administration officials -- Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The Post said the two officials, citing Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding,  warn the law imposes an “obligation” on schools “to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns.”

“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students,” reads the letter, The Washington Post said.

This breaking news story will be updated.