Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is making major changes to the education reforms law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to documents obtained by Fox News.
Among the changes is the inclusion of “gender identity” in the definition of “disability.”
A section of the law that was written by the Obama administration, the Individuals With Disabilities Civil Rights Act, was recently revised by the Trump administration.
The Obama administration said the law should apply to transgender students who use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
DeVos, however, is reversing course, saying the new section should only apply to those students who identify as transgender.
The Trump administration has said transgender students should use the bathroom of their choice, but DeVos says they should not have to use the same restroom as the opposite sex.
“The ADA has been interpreted to mean transgender students can use the facilities of their choosing,” a Department of Education spokeswoman told Fox News in a statement.
“This is no longer the case, and the ADA is no more.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice also said the ADA does not apply to students who do not identify as “gender” in any way.
“We are interpreting the ADA to mean that students who are transgender are not covered by the law,” the Department spokeswoman said.
The new version of the ADA, which was passed in June, includes language that says students should not be denied access to facilities that correspond to their “biological sex.”
Under the revised version, those students would be required to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their “gender identities.”
In an interview with Fox News, DeVos told Fox affiliate Fox News Sunday that the new language was in response to an ACLU lawsuit filed in the state of Maryland, where she was Education Secretary, against the Obama-era Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other agencies.
“What the ACLU and the Department [of Education] are asking us to do is to clarify that transgender students are not protected by Title IX of the Civil Rights Amendment Act,” DeVos said.
DeVos said she supports the new policy and hopes the administration will adopt it.
“They [the Department of Labor] have already done that, and that’s very much what I believe, and I have been supportive of their position,” DeVos told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
She said she’s confident the administration is following the correct interpretation of the legislation.
“I believe that we are moving in the right direction,” DeVos added.
The Education Department also announced Thursday it is making changes to other parts of the new law.
“Under the revised [ADAAA] standards, transgender students will have the same access to public accommodations and schools as other students of the same sex,” a spokesperson for Education Secretary DeVos said in a written statement.
The spokesperson said the department is “currently reviewing the updated language” of the bill.
The Department of Homeland Security also announced a major change to the language of the Obama era law, the Americans with Disability Act, which it said would make it easier for people to apply for disability benefits.
“A few years ago, the Obama Administration was working to create a new federal disability benefit, the Federal Supplemental Security Income (FSI) program, to help low-income Americans meet the costs of their disabilities,” the department said in its statement.
Under the new rules, the federal government is allowing applicants to receive disability benefits in the form of a “safety net,” or the equivalent of a lump sum, rather than as a cash benefit.
“By removing language that was used to discriminate against transgender students, the Department will now be able to offer more accessible disability benefits to qualified individuals, and is working to further reduce barriers to participation in the Federal disability program,” the DHS spokesperson said.
In June, the Justice Department announced it was opening an investigation into the federal department’s handling of the lawsuit.
The department’s investigation includes an examination of the Department’s handling, including, but not limited to, whether any individuals were harmed or lost access to the federal program under the Obama DOJ, the department’s statement said.
“In addition, we are also looking into whether the Obama Justice Department and the Obama Department of Defense misled the courts, Congress, and Americans about the legal rights of transgender students,” the Justice statement said, noting that the Obama policies were a factor in the ruling.