HELEN — State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-51), Senate Majority Whip, is calling on Georgia's top officials to take a firm stand against President Barack Obama's letter sent to school systems Friday with guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching the gender they identify with.
"We're asking the governor and lieutenant governor to look at the president's policy initiative that he announced this week that basically threatens local governments with withholding their funds for their local schools," Gooch said Tuesday. "We think that's a wrong direction for our country. We shouldn't be controlling local school boards and dictating them and holding this over their head."
Gooch, of Lumpkin County, briefly answered questions during Tuesday afternoon's Helen City Commission meeting.
Many of those questions focused on transportation and other issues, but one audience member asked Gooch's stance on the federal bathroom directive issued Friday.
While the Obama administration directive, signed by U.S. Justice and Education department officials, does not have the force of law, it implies schools that don't abide by the Obama administration's interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.
"We have a lot of concerns with this transgender policy that [President Obama] has basically adopted and he's announced and we want to make sure going forward we protect the safety of our children and our school systems," Gooch said. "It's concerning when you see hundreds and thousands of parents come to a school board meeting like we saw up in Fannin County this week, and it's going to affect every county in Georgia and across the country, so we've asked the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general to take a strong stand against it, and we're going to stand against it as well in the Senate."
District 51 includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union, White and parts of Forsyth and Pickens counties.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal issued a statement regarding the issue.
That statement reads, in full:
"The Obama administration’s directive, recently announced by press release, to local school systems regarding accommodations for transgender students has generated confusion and controversy among parents, students and school officials. While I do not believe this directive carries the force of law, the Departments of Justice and Education have threatened to revoke federal funding from schools that fail to comply. Georgia’s constitution and state laws, however, require these decisions be made at the local level. While our 181 school systems must each determine an appropriate response to this federal overreach, I have asked State School Superintendent Richard Woods to provide guidance to those local school systems seeking assistance and clarity on this issue in order to ensure that there will be as much uniformity across our state as possible. Until Congress acts, I assure the citizens of Georgia that the offices of the governor, attorney general and state school superintendent will work cooperatively to protect the interests of Georgia’s children from this abuse of federal executive authority."