The letter provided no reason or legal justification for withdrawing its 2016 conclusion that the girl's school wrongly barred her from the girls' bathroom and failed to address the harassment she endured from classmates and teachers, who repeatedly called her by male pronouns and the male name she was given at birth. The move follows the office's announcement that it will scale back "systemic" civil rights investigations.
Committee Chair Catherine E. Lhamon said in the statement on the investigation: "For 60 years, Congress has charged the commission to monitor federal civil rights enforcement and recommend necessary change".
"This is so risky", said Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing the OH transgender student, identified only as Jane Doe, in a lawsuit against the school district.
In February, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice rescinded guidance from the Obama administration that had advised schools to treat transgender students according to their gender identity.
However, one OCR employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Post that the memo is a "green light" to process discrimination complaints of transgender students, which include those that deal with bathroom access.
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ACLU's John Knight said there are other transgender students in Palatine who are struggling to be treated fairly and could benefit from continued federal oversight.
"President Trump and his Administration can claim to oppose discrimination all they want, but actions speak louder than words", Sen.
That's because the United States Commission on Civil Rights, an independent and bipartisan federal agency whose members are appointed by both Congress and the president, has opened a two-year investigation into whether the Trump administration is duly protecting and enforcing Americans' civil rights.
Robert Shibley, the executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an advocacy group, said the measures will be welcomed on college campuses where the department has overstepped in carrying out sexual assault investigations.
Keisling said her organization is still trying to determine what this memo portends in a legal framework, and until then said she "would not be surprised if this turns out for the worst".
Restroom access is not among the specific issues listed as appropriate for federal investigation, and is offered as an example of a type of case that might be dismissed.
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Lhamon also said she could think of no legal basis for closing the OH case or withdrawing previous findings, which were based on an interpretation of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination, that was adopted by the Obama administration and was recently affirmed for the first time by a federal appellate court.
Lhamon said she created that designation for cases that touched on unsettled law, in an effort to standardize the responses to complaints in different parts of the country.
Anurima Bhargava, who served in the Obama administration's Justice Department and believes transgender students have a right to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, agreed that the memo is written in a way that gives federal officials room to pursue complaints from students who are denied bathroom access.
The instructions to regional officials were reported the same day the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted to undertake a two-year review of the Trump administration's handling of civil rights issues.
But the Education Department insists that just because it rescinded the Obama-era guidance does not mean that transgender students do not enjoy some level of protection against various forms of harassment.
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