As part of its celebration of Title IX, which has provided opportunities for generations of women and girls, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed changes to regulations for implementing this important law in elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities for public comment.
As a federal civil rights law, Title IX protects students from discrimination in educational programs and activities financed by the federal government. The department said the proposed amendments will ensure that victims of sexual harassment, assault, or sex-based discrimination will receive crucial protections.
An unofficial version of the changes can be found here.
"As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation's students – no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love – can learn, grow, and thrive in school," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the announcement.
"We welcome public comment on these critical regulations so we can further the Biden-Harris Administration's mission of creating educational environments free from sex discrimination and sexual violence," he continued.
It'll be the first time that regulations would be in place to formally protect LGBTQ+ students under the law, the Associated Press reports. The news wire notes that the 1972 law did not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Department of Education said specific rules on the rights of trans students in sports will be released later on.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said, "As we look to the next fifty years, I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans. My Administration will continue to fight tirelessly to realize the promise of Title IX — that every person deserves an opportunity to pursue their education free from discrimination and realize their full potential."
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During the Trump administration, the Department of Education changed the implementation of Title IX in what many called a controversial and discriminatory way, removing long-standing protections for LGBTQ+ students and opening up the door to sex-based discrimination.
Recently, anti-LGBTQ+ groups and politicians have targeted transgender kids, in particular, denying them gender-affirming medical care, accessing bathrooms, and preventing them from participating in team sports.
By issuing Executive Order 14021 in March 2021, Biden began undoing Trump administration actions that undermined Title IX and LGBTQ+ student protections. Per the executive order, federal facilities and educational environments must be free of sexual harassment, sexual violence, and discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and identity.
The Biden administration's proposed changes have been lauded by advocate organizations.
A statement from Jesse O'Connell, senior vice president of education at the Center for American Progress, celebrated the announcement.
"All students should be represented and feel safe in the classroom, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other sex characteristics," O'Connell says. "Regrettably, MAGA extremists in states across the country are politicizing our students' education and threatening the physical and mental health of LGBTQI+ youth. Their efforts are callous and unacceptable. This proposal would ensure that all students can learn in environments that are free of harassment and discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics, including intersex traits."
Human Rights Campaign's legal director Sarah Warbelow said the rule change will get “at the heart of what Title IX is supposed to do – protect students from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and discrimination while on campus.”
Warbelow added, “These protections are particularly critical for female and LGBTQ+ students. A strong Title IX regulation, with clear expectations for how educational institutions are expected to behave, is an absolutely essential component of ensuring that our schools are places to learn and that all students can be safe in educational settings. By spelling out protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it will further safeguard a vulnerable population that is all too often preyed upon. The proposed rule is a good first step, and we look forward to seeing an additional strong proposed rule on athletics and final rules that fully encompass needed protections relating to gender identity. It is especially important, given the attacks on transgender youth across the country.”