US judge blocks Obama administration's trans school bathroom guidelines

Civil rights groups say 'misguided decision' targets a vulnerable group of young people

A US federal judge has blocked the Obama administration from introducing new trans-friendly policies for schools.

Judge Reed O’Connor dismissed guidelines encouraging schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, siding with calls by Republican-led states to reject the policy.

The thirteen states who brought a lawsuit against the directive were granted an injunction just ahead of the start of another school year. 

The original guidance, issued in May, explained the obligation of schools to allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity.

It would have banned schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against transgender youths.

But O’Connor temporarily blocked the guidelines in a ruling late last night, saying the administration failed to provide adequate notice to states and school districts.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the challenge, welcomed the ruling in a statement.

"We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama administration’s latest illegal federal overreach,” he said.

"This president is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform.

"That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect states and school districts, who are charged under state law to establish a safe and disciplined environment conducive to student learning.”

But five civil rights groups insisted that the ruling cannot undo years of legal precedent protecting transgender students from discrimination.

"The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people – transgender elementary and high school students – for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse," the groups, including the ACLU, said in a joint statement.

O’Connor said the nationwide injunction does not prevent states from following the guidelines if they so wish.