The State Board of Education in Kansas voted unanimously to ignore President Obama’s pressed mandates to schools around the nation to open bathroom doors to both sexes – so that boys could use girls’ facilities, and vice versa – and said, in effect, the risk of losing federal funding wasn’t worth the chaotic and unsafe atmosphere that would befall the students.
Obama, via a memo to his Department of Education and U.S. Justice Department, pushed forward the new policy for all public schools just a few weeks ago, saying transgender individuals have a right to equal access. Since, states have been scrambling to either comply or fight, while critics have sounded the alarms on the unsafe conditions the government was creating for students.
Now, Kansas has taken a firm stand.
In a 10-0 vote, the Board of Education members voted to outright ignore Obama’s directive, and instead said individual schools ought to be able make the decisions for their own districts, the Associated Press reported.
Under the board’s vote, schools can certainly elect to follow Obama’s policy, as well. But they would do so without the backing of the state’s highest administrative body for education.
The state receives nearly $479 million in federal school aid each year; it’s not clear how that vote will affect that amount.
But Scott Gordon, the general counsel for the state’s Department of Education, said the threat of lost money isn’t significant enough to force officials to abide Obama’s mandate. He said it’s not likely the entire state would lose federal funding if only one school district decided to ignore Obama’s policy, and in light of that reality, that the state board wasn’t really putting the finances of Kansas schools at much risk.
Besides, he added, only one transgender student in the entire state has so far filed a complaint of discrimination, and that was in 2015. His logic? That proves the state already has in place sufficient anti-discrimination provisions in schools, he said, AP reported.
“We must continue to provide our schools the flexibility needed to work with their students, families and communities to effectively address the needs of the students they serve,” the State Board of Education said in a statement reported by the AP. ”
Meanwhile, other Kansas leaders are continuing with a suit against the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Department of Education over the new transgender bathroom policy, alleging an encroachment on local authorities. And the fight has the backing of one of the state’s congressional representatives, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who actually sent out letters to school officials in his district of Central and Western Kansas, urging them to disobey the Obama mandate.
“Neither our girls or boys should be forced to undress in the presence of individuals who are of the opposite biological sex,” he said in the letter. “Our children should also not be subjectd to a greater risk of threats from predators who seek to do them harm.”