Washington (CNN)Responding to criticism of his administration's new guidance on transgender students' use of school bathrooms, President Barack Obama said Monday he wanted to ensure children were being treated with dignity.
Obama: Transgender bathroom guidance meant to affirm kids' dignity
"We're talking about kids. And anybody who's been in a school, in a high school, who's been a parent, I think should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority, kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender, are subject to a lot of bullying," he said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
"They are vulnerable," Obama said. "And I think that is part of our obligation as a society to make sure that everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are loved, and protected, and their dignity is affirmed."
Obama said school administrators were asking for guidance on the issue, which has become the subject of intense political debate after certain states passed laws restricting the use of public bathrooms.
He said the new guidance -- distributed jointly by the departments of Education and Justice -- was designed to give schools "our best judgment about how to approach it."
Last week, those agencies wrote in a joint letter to school districts that educators should foster a "supportive and nondiscriminatory environment" for transgender students. It was written in the midst of a legal battle over a North Carolina state law that mandates individuals only use the bathroom of their anatomical sex.
Obama's administration has called that law mean-spirited, and the Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state.