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The Biden administration is pursuing sweeping new changes to federal Title IX law to restore ‘crucial protections’ for victims of sexual harassment, assault and gender-based discrimination that it maintains it has lost under the administration Trump.
Under the proposed changes, announced Thursday, the law would protect victims from discrimination based not only on sex, but also on sexual orientation and gender identity, effectively adding transgender students as a protected class. The current regulations are silent on the rights of these students.
But the proposal sidesteps the issue of transgender athletes’ rights to compete in women’s sports, a volatile issue according to administration officials who will get their own set of regulations at a later date.
“It’s personal to me as an educator and as a father,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said during the announcement. “I want the same opportunities as my daughter and my son – and my transgender cousin – so they can realize their potential and achieve their dreams.”
The changes come 50 years to the day after President Richard Nixon signed the federal Civil Rights Act that bans gender discrimination in education.
Cardona noted Thursday that LGBTQ youth “face bullying and harassment, experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide, and too often grow up feeling like they don’t belong.”
The proposed regulations, he said, “send a strong message to these students and to all of our students: you belong in our schools. You have worthy dreams and incredible talents. You deserve the opportunity to shine authentically and unashamedly. The Biden-Harris administration has your back.
Education and civil rights groups have welcomed the proposed rules, with Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, saying they “significantly strengthen principals’ abilities to ensure schools provide what students need.
Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth, applauded the administration’s attempt to extend Title IX protections to sexual orientation and identity. gender, stating, “School should be a place where students learn and feel comfortable. be themselves, not a source of bullying and discrimination.
But the proposed rules have angered some conservative groups. In a statement, Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, called the move a “federal overreach” and dubbed the proposed settlement “The Biden Administration’s ‘Must Say They’ Rewrite of Title IX,” referring to the pronoun favorite of some who are transgender.
“American families should be deeply concerned about the proposed rewrite of Title IX,” Neily said. “Whether it’s rolling back due process protections, trampling on the First Amendment, adding ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ into a law that can only be changed by a Congressional action, the Biden administration has shown that it puts the demands of a small group of political activists above the concerns of millions of families across the country.
Taken together, the proposed regulations would create a stark contrast to Trump administration rules passed in 2020 under then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Under DeVos, for example, schools were prohibited from opening Title IX cases if an alleged assault took place outside of school grounds. Under the new rules, schools would be required to address “hostile environments” in programs and activities, even if the behavior that contributed to the hostile environment “occurred off campus or outside of the United States,” a senior official told reporters.
“Our view now is that the existing regulations do not best fulfill the mandate of Congress in Title IX,” the official said. “We can do more to ensure that students do not experience gender discrimination at school.”
Cardona’s proposed changes both expand the definition of sexual harassment and potentially limit the opportunities for students accused of assault or sexual harassment to confront their accusers. Administration officials said the new regulations would require schools to take “prompt and effective” action against sex discrimination on campus.
But they also said the current regulations relax the requirements for sexual assault investigations in schools: the proposed rules, for example, would “allow but not require” schools to hold live hearings in which accused students can confront survivors directly.
A senior department official, who briefed reporters Thursday on the background, said the administration concluded that a live hearing, which resembles a court proceeding, “is one way, but not the only way, to conduct a investigate and determine what happened.” The official noted that the vast majority of schools were not holding live hearings before the Trump administration began requiring them in 2020. “And it was clear to us that a live hearing was not critical to determining outcomes and a fair process,” the official said. said.
In a statement, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), said the decision “returns to the Obama administration’s deeply flawed campus disciplinary process, which has led to hundreds of inconsistent judgments and more than 300 legal challenges. The existing rule struck a balance that was legal and fair to both parties.”
Notably absent from Thursday’s announcement was any mention of Title IX applying to athletics, which caused an uproar due to the application of a handful of transgender athletes to compete in women’s sporting events.
The administration said it would engage in a separate rulemaking process to address the application of the law to athletics and gender, but offered no immediate timeline for the process. A senior ministry official said the subject “deserved its own separate rule-making process”.
Administration officials have previously said Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment in programs receiving federal funds, will echo the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgiawhich extended protections against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace to LGBTQ employees.
Although the interpretation of the Ministry of Bostock the ruling does not mention sports, the Biden administration last year filed a brief in a West Virginia case in which a transgender girl who wants to compete with girls on her college cross-country team is challenging the law 2021 state law prohibiting students born as males from participating in girls’ sports.
A group of 15 Republican-led states, led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, has threatened to challenge the regulations in court. Since last year, a dozen states have passed laws banning trans women from competing in women’s and women’s sports.
Last week, the International Swimming Federation, the world governing body for swimming, voted to ban transgender athletes from competing in top-level female competition unless they begin medical treatment to suppress the production of testosterone early in life.
The group, internationally known as International Swimming Federationor FINA, said it would also establish a new “open” category for athletes who identify as female but do not qualify to compete against females at birth.
In contrast, World Cup and Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe told TIME last week that she was “100% supportive of trans inclusion” in sport, noting that what most people know about the subject comes from “relentless” conservative talking points that don’t. reflect reality.
“Show me the proof that trans women are taking everyone’s scholarships, dominating in every sport, winning every title,” she said. “I’m sorry, that just doesn’t happen. So we have to start with inclusion, period. And as things come up, I trust that we can figure it out. But we cannot start with the opposite. It’s cruel. And frankly, it’s just disgusting.
The public has 60 days to send in comments on the new proposal, which could take several months to finalize.