Lauren Khouri

  • March 1, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Lauren A. Khouri, Associate Attorney, Correia and Puth

    This past week, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, under the direction of President Trump, withdrew guidance to schools that receive federal funding that Title IX requires transgender students the right to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. In withdrawing the guidance on transgender rights, the Trump administration showed neither an understanding of the laws that protect against sex discrimination nor the key role of government in protecting students’ civil rights.

    First and foremost, the Trump administration’s actions do not change the law. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 – like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – has long protected the rights of transgender students to use restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity. By its language, Title IX prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating “based on sex.” Over the past two decades, federal courts and agencies have recognized with near unanimity that federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination, including Title IX, prohibit discrimination against transgender persons. For example, the Supreme Court long ago recognized that it is illegal for an employer to deny employment opportunities or permit harassment because a woman does not dress or talk in a feminine manner, because this is discrimination based on sex. Likewise, federal trial and appellate courts have found that it is impossible to consider someone’s gender identity – a person’s innate identification of one’s gender – without considering his or her sex. Indeed, transgender people are defined by the fact that their gender identity does not match the biological sex given to them at birth. Therefore, courts have reasoned, discriminating against someone based on their gender identity is synonymous with sex discrimination prohibited under the law.

  • January 19, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Lauren A. Khouri, Associate Attorney at Correia & Puth, PLLC

    This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. The agency is tasked with promoting student achievement, fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. This means interpreting and enforcing our students’ civil rights laws.

    Prior to the hearing, there was little public record about DeVos’ record on important issues. DeVos has never been an educator, led a school, school district or state agency. She has not been a public school parent or a public school student. Her lack of experience has led numerous education and civil rights groups to denounce her nomination and speculate on how she would lead the Department based on past financial contributions. For example, DeVos’ foundation has donated to organizations that oppose Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault, groups that oppose discrimination against LGBTQ students in schools and efforts to restrict access to birth control and abortion, as well as shame young or unwed mothers. All of these donations called into question whether DeVos would protect Title IX rights for survivors, LGBTQ students and students who are pregnant, parenting or have had an abortion.

    At the HELP hearing, DeVos demonstrated little knowledge about the key issues facing the department she’s been tapped to lead, and she refused to commit to enforcing key civil rights laws and protecting public education. Where DeVos had the opportunity to make her commitment to students’ rights clear, saying nothing actually says a lot.