University offers transgender student access to ladies' room after DOJ letter

The ladies' room at an Arkansas university is now open to female-identifying transgender students -- and one report says the university's students have the Justice Department to thank.

The news site Campus Reform reports that a DOJ letter led the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to reverse its policy, which previously only allowed transgender individuals to use gender-neutral or unisex bathrooms. The letter was prompted by a complaint from transgender student Jennifer Braly -- an anatomically male student who identifies as a woman.

Braly reportedly complained about being banned from the ladies' room as well as concerns about access to campus housing.

A spokeswoman with the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith confirmed to that the state's university system received the DOJ letter, though she could not discuss its contents. Spokeswoman Sondra LaMar also confirmed that the school changed its restroom policy "in consultation" with the system's general counsel.

The Justice Department, though, says it never demanded the university make any restroom policy change -- and was simply following up on the complaint it received from the student.

"The department followed its general practice and contacted the university when it received a complaint from an undergraduate student that alleged that the university had discriminated against her based on sex," the department said. "Consistent with our standard practice of notifying schools in writing that the department has received a complaint, the department simply advised the university that it was reviewing the complaint to determine whether there had been a violation of the federal laws enforced by the department that prohibit sex discrimination."

The statement continued: "The department's letter stressed that it had reached no conclusions as to whether a violation of federal law had occurred. This was an initial inquiry, and the department never directed the university to take a specific action or change any of its policies."

Braly, according to the Arkansas Times, had also sued the university on discrimination grounds.

As for the restroom issue, Braly told the Arkansas Times that while the university offered access to the gender-neutral bathrooms, there are only "a handful of these on the entire campus."