State Superintendent Carey Wright made the announcement Wednesday in a brief statement, saying the department would “follow the lead of state leadership” and take no action until the state Board of Education discusses the situation.
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.”
The move comes as Republicans in other states have opposed the guidance, with some seeking to join legal challenges. In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam questioned the need for a special legislative session to block it, as some lawmakers have proposed. North Carolina’s GOP chairman called on Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper to clarify his position on the guidance. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican lawmakers in Arkansas also issued fresh criticisms.
The guidance isn’t legally binding. Courts haven’t definitively said whether federal civil rights laws protect transgender people. But schools that refuse to comply could lose federal education aid and face civil rights lawsuits from the government.
Mississippi’s K-12 schools got more than $700 million in federal aid in the 2014-2015 school year. Federal dollars make up more than 30 percent of the budgets of districts serving the state’s poorest populations.
State Board of Education Chairman John Kelly said the board will have a special meeting within the next two weeks to discuss the issue.