By: Andrea Sears (KSNC)

PITTSBURGH – President Donald Trump’s action overturning some protections for transgender students does not take away students’ rights, according to a lawyer in one Pennsylvania case.

A joint letter from the Departments of Justice and Education issued Wednesday said it’s up to states and school districts to decide if transgender students are allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity. But according to Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, the Lambda Legal attorney representing three transgender students in a lawsuit against the Pine-Richland School District, his clients are still entitled to protection.

“It ultimately does not change what the federal law requires,” Gonzalez-Pagan said. “The federal law simply requires school districts to treat transgender students with equality and respect in all aspects of their lives, including access to restrooms.”

In September, the Pine-Richland School District enacted a policy requiring students to use restrooms and locker rooms according to the sex assigned at birth, or use separate facilities.

Ultimately, Gonzalez-Pagan said he thinks the issue will probably be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. He pointed out that, historically, those arguing that individual states have the right to allow discrimination have failed.

“It was an argument that was used to try to preserve slavery, segregation, the marriage bans that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying,” he explained. “And in every one of those instances, the Supreme Court rejected the argument.”

Several federal courts have ruled in favor of transgender rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Gonzalez-Pagan stressed that transgender students around the country need to know that their rights are still protected.

“Title IX requires that they be treated equally. The U.S. Constitution requires that they be treated equally. And they have tons of allies standing with them and supporting them,” he said.

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