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Mississippi school chief shelves transgender bathroom policy

Mississippi Public School Superintendent Carey Wright said Wednesday the state’s Department of Education won't follow new federal guidance on use of bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender students.
Mississippi Public School Superintendent Carey Wright said Wednesday the state’s Department of Education won't follow new federal guidance on use of bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender students.Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press/File 2015

JACKSON, Miss. — Under fire from the governor and many Republican legislators, the Mississippi Department of Education now says it won’t follow new federal guidance on transgender students’ bathroom and locker room use.

State Superintendent Carey Wright made the announcement Wednesday morning in a brief statement, saying the department would ‘‘follow the lead of state leadership’’ and take no action until the state Board of Education could discuss the situation. The move comes as Republicans in a number of other states have opposed the guidance, with some seeking to join legal challenges.

Mississippi education officials had said Friday they would follow the guidance by federal authorities calling for transgender students to be treated consistently with their gender identity. They cited a need for a ‘‘safe and caring school environment.’’

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State Board of Education chairman John Kelly of Gulfport said that board will have a special meeting within two weeks to discuss the issue.

‘‘Dr. Wright and I had a general discussion, but it was her decision to reverse this,’’ Kelly said. He described his own position on Wright’s action as ‘‘not important.’’

Elsewhere, Georgia’s governor on Tuesday ordered his state’s superintendent to provide guidance to create a uniform response across the state to ‘‘this federal overreach.’’ South Carolina’s governor and state attorney general said they oppose the guidance, but the state superintendent has said she’s monitoring it.

The move in Mississippi came as opposition to Wright’s earlier announcement that she would comply turned into a landslide. Wednesday, 27 Republican state senators among the GOP’s 32-member supermajority sent a letter to Wright and the Board of Education calling for ‘‘swift and decisive action on this urgent matter.’’

Governor Phil Bryant had called for Mississippi to defy ‘‘federal coercion’’ and some Republican lawmakers called for Wright to reverse her position.

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