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Senator Lankford Statement on Department of Education’s Latest Abuse of Executive Overreach

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) released the following statement on the Department of Education’s guidance letter to local school districts regarding the use of public school bathrooms:

“The Obama Department of Education’s guidance letter on the use of public school bathrooms is another example of how they have continued to create law out of thin air with Dear Colleague letters, threats and intimidation. They have continually shown a pattern of federal overreach and bullying of schools while attempting to force their ideology outside of the legal requirements for creating policy. The proposal in today’s guidance is so significant and groundbreaking, it should only be considered by legislation, preferably at the local level, instead of through a Department of Education guidance letter. Even though the Department will say that guidance does not have the force of law, every school district in the country will be terrified of going against a federal agenda. This is threatening and intimidating and has no place in our government.”

“In November, Congress debated and passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the reauthorization of the latest elementary and secondary education laws. This legislation would have been the proper place for consideration of this type of change in law. During that debate, transgender student policy was discussed but Congress ultimately decided to defer to states and localities.

“This proposal has many unintended consequences for safety and gender fairness, which are completely being ignored in this conversation. This type of policy change has major implications for safety, the use of school locker rooms, and participation of sports teams in school. No student should feel unwelcome at school, but we cannot ignore the fact that this policy will make the majority of American families unwelcome in their own school. The people of Oklahoma are welcoming to all, but they deserve the right to make their own choices on how to honor and protect each child.”

This year, Lankford has repeatedly challenged the Department of Education’s inappropriate use of ‘Dear Colleague’ letters and ‘guidance documents’ to mandate policy for schools without adhering to the legislative process or transparent regulatory process, as required by law. Academics and legal experts have agreed with Lankford’s criticism of the Department of Education. Lankford voted against the confirmation of Education Secretary John King because of Mr. King’s philosophy about the Department’s overreach. In September 2015, Lankford chaired a hearing on their pattern of executive overreach, as well.