Tom Torlakson Joins Washington and Oregon School Chiefs in Opposing Redefinition of Gender
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services voicing his opposition to any attempts by federal authorities to redefine the concepts of gender and sex.
The letter comes amid reports that the HHS is considering a narrower federal definition of gender based solely on one’s biological sex at birth. Transgender advocates say such a move would undermine the rights of trans people under Title IX and other federal statutes.
The letter was signed by Torlakson, as well as school chiefs from the states of Oregon and Washington. It reads in part:
This damaging proposal would seriously harm our nation’s children and eliminate the ability for some people to fight back against discrimination,” said Torlakson, who was a high school science teacher and coach. “Policies and facilities that assume individuals fall strictly within two categories and assume that identity is visually identifiable risk excluding and alienating individuals. This policy would allow discrimination against those whose gender identity does not line up with their biological sex.
Washington state law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on a student’s gender expression or identity in our public schools,” said Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “To our students who are transgender: We hear you. We see you. We support you. We will protect you.
It is our responsibility to create caring school environments that are safe and welcoming for all students,” said Colt Gill, Oregon Department of Education Director. “Denying a person’s gender identity or forcing conformity to this federal rule change is disrespectful, discriminatory, and harmful. Each of our children deserve more. They deserve schools that accept, respect, and serve them well.
The federal government’s concept of gender affects the provision of federal services and civil rights protections in areas such as education, employment, and health care. The Obama administration previously expanded the definition to recognize gender as a matter of individual choice.