WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama is giving new marching orders to public schools about bathroom use by transgender students.

Letters will go out on Friday informing school districts that they are to allow transgender students to use the restrooms of their choice.

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The directive is in formal guidance being sent to school districts Friday by the departments of Education and Justice.

The letter does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say the guidance is meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

The letter is signed by officials from the Justice Department and the Department of Education, the New York Times reported. It does not have the force of law, but warns that schools that do not abide could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid, the New York Times reported.

The move comes amid a legal fight with the State of North Carolina about transgender restroom use.

The Justice Department sent letters earlier this month to Gov. Pat McCrory, the head of the University of North Carolina system and another agency saying federal officials view the law known as House Bill 2 as violating federal Civil Rights Act protections.

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An anti-discrimination ordinance approved in February in Charlotte that, among other things, would have allowed transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity led to a special legislative session.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation that invalidates an order in the city of Charlotte allowing transgender people to use restrooms aligned with their gender identity.

The law also requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their biological sex and bars local governments statewide from prohibiting discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The move sparked a flurry of criticism and protests from LGBT advocates as well as from leaders from other states. Musicians like Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr and Bruce Springsteen canceled concerts in North Carolina in protest, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy issued non-essential travel bans to the state.

The Justice Department asked state officials to declare they won’t carry out the law and allow people to access bathrooms and other facilities “consistent with their gender identity.”

McCrory and fellow Republicans said President Barack Obama’s administration went too far by stepping in.

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