The United States government has asked public schools in the country to allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity, reported The New York Times. The Obama administration has sent out letters to school administrations across the country spelling out directives to protect students from the transgender community against discrimination.

Though the directives are not binding by law, schools that do not follow the instructions might attract legal action against them and loss of government aid. “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” John B King Jr., Secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

The move is significant as it comes in the backdrop of a controversial bathroom Bill passed by North Carolina. The law bars transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates. The US Justice Department had given the state time till May 9 to scrap the Bill, failing which legal proceedings were initiated against the state. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch had said that law amounted to “state-sponsored discrimination” and has caused transgender people to suffer “emotional harm, mental anguish, distress, humiliation and indignity”.

The state also initiated a law suit before the lapse of the deadline, saying that federal intervention in this regard was a “baseless and blatant overreach” of its power, and disputed the federal interpretation of civil rights laws, reported The Guardian.