Myers: Federal directive is not law

Published 9:53 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Mickey Myers said his district is unlikely to comply with federal guidance on Title IX, which says sex-based discrimination policies should also apply to transgender students, before the issue is decided in the courts.

“Right now this directive is not law,” Myers said. “It’s going to play out in the court system before it could ever be implemented in our schools. We want to keep a safe environment and protect all our students, and this is a distraction to what our school system is about.”

MIckey Myers

MIckey Myers

The school district has so far not addressed the issue in a board meeting. The Brookhaven School District hasn’t addressed the issue in a school board meeting either.

The joint guidance said students should have access to restrooms, locker rooms, single-sex classes and athletics teams consistent with their gender identity.

Initially, State Superintendent Carey Wright released a statement through the Mississippi Department of Education that MDE would follow the guidance, but she reversed that decision after harsh criticism from Gov. Phil Bryant and several state legislators, including Reps. Becky Currie and Vince Mangold.

Title IX is tied to federal funds, so while the document does not have the force of law, the federal government could deny federal funds to schools who fail to comply until the question of gender identity and Title IX is answered in the courts.

Bryant recently pledged that Mississippi would be joining 11 other states in challenging the guidance.

“Our office has talked to the Texas attorney general’s office and I intend, as soon as possible, to join the lawsuit against this latest example of federal overreach,” Bryant said in a statement.

The lawsuit, announced May 25, includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. But Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said he won’t be joining the lawsuit.

Hood joined a lawsuit last year to try to stop the Justice Department “from interfering with the way in which local schools operate their restrooms,” he said. Hood was on the losing side of that case. A federal appeals court panel ruled that a Virginia high school discriminated against a transgender teen by forbidding him from using the boys’ restroom.

“For that reason, I chose not to join the Texas lawsuit,” Hood said in a statement last week. “I also have concerns on issues of standing in the Texas suit because no federal funding has been withheld from any school. Moreover, I have a different legal opinion as to how the United States Supreme Court will finally decide the issue.”

Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said an attorney in the governor’s office will represent Bryant.

Myers said, as far as he is aware, there are no transgender students in the Lincoln County School District.