The Obama Administration released new guidelines Friday on bathrooms, telling public schools they are obligated to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity.
"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The directive is contained in formal guidance sent to school districts Friday.
The move was cheered by Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian and transgender civil rights organization, which called the guidelines "groundbreaking."
Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made comments about the guidelines on Friday.
“I believe this is an outrageous overreach by the federal government," she said. "It nearly defies belief that the Obama Administration now wants to direct how Oklahoma schools and districts operate our bathrooms. Furthermore, I find it disturbing that this ‘joint guidance’ carries an implicit threat of loss of federal funds. In the midst of a historic funding crisis for public education, schools should not be burdened with this sort of overreach yet again.
“Educators have a responsibility to ensure that every child is safe, treated with respect, and given the opportunity to learn. Oklahoma schools know the needs of our students and communities, and meeting those needs should solely remain a matter of local control.”
Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin calls the new guidelines ridiculous and overreaching.
Mullin, who represents the second district in eastern Oklahoma, says this is the Obama Administration's latest attempt to force Oklahoma schools to comply with a liberal agenda.
"We've seen ridiculous, overreaching mandates come out of this administration over and over again, but the president's latest attempt to force Oklahoma schools to comply with his extreme liberal agenda is the most flagrant example of putting politics before people. The federal government has no business telling Oklahoma schools how they must operate when it comes to the use of school bathrooms. Federal courts have not concluded whether federal sex discrimination laws apply when it comes to gender identity, so the administration’s legal standing is squishy at best," said Markwayne Mullin.
The text of the directive says that "a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity."
The congressman says as a father and a parent, he won't let the federal government dictate what is an Oklahoma school board decision.
“Parents, teachers, and local school boards know what is best for our children. Any decision about the use of bathrooms in Oklahoma schools should be made at the state or local level. I am not going to let this administration hold Oklahoma's federal education funding hostage at a time when our schools can't afford any more cuts. I am actively exploring ways to block this mandate," Mullin said.
"The Obama Department of Education's guidance letter on the use of public school bathrooms is another example of how they have continued to create law out of thin air with Dear Colleague letters, threats and intimidation. They have continually shown a pattern of federal overreach and bullying of schools while attempting to force their ideology outside of the legal requirements for creating policy. The proposal in today's guidance is so significant and groundbreaking, it should only be considered by legislation, preferably at the local level, instead of through a Department of Education guidance letter. Even though the Department will say that guidance does not have the force of law, every school district in the country will be terrified of going against a federal agenda. This is threatening and intimidating and has no place in our government.”
U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), said the guidelines amount to threat and intimidation by the Obama Administration.
“In November, Congress debated and passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the reauthorization of the latest elementary and secondary education laws," Lankford said in a statement. "This legislation would have been the proper place for consideration of this type of change in law. During that debate, transgender student policy was discussed but Congress ultimately decided to defer to states and localities.
“This proposal has many unintended consequences for safety and gender fairness, which are completely being ignored in this conversation. This type of policy change has major implications for safety, the use of school locker rooms, and participation of sports teams in school. No student should feel unwelcome at school, but we cannot ignore the fact that this policy will make the majority of American families unwelcome in their own school. The people of Oklahoma are welcoming to all, but they deserve the right to make their own choices on how to honor and protect each child."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.