WASHINGTON – The Education Department said on Wednesday that transgender students were protected under Title IX, a law that bans sex discrimination in federally-funded schools, overturning a Trump-era policy who had actually said the opposite.
“We just want to double our expectations,” Miguel A. Cardona, education secretary, said in an interview. âStudents cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “
The ruling was rooted in a Supreme Court ruling last year that determined that civil rights law protections against discrimination in the workplace extended to gay and transgender people, and similar interpretations. of the decision surfaced through agencies of President Biden’s government. His administration went to considerable effort to overturn, revise or revoke a number of Trump-era policies that nullified transgender rights.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services have all issued guidelines affirming the rights of transgender Americans, using the court ruling as a model.
âI think the Trump administration really tried to muddy the waters by coming out,â Josh Block, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in an interview. Mr Block called the Ministry of Education’s latest announcement a “very simple and very clear” interpretation of the rule, but said he was still waiting for the agency to “give more flesh to what it really means discrimination”.
The department will not change the process for reporting or investigating individual cases of discrimination through its Civil Rights Office, Cardona said, adding: âThere is a process to investigate specific cases, and we want to respect that process. It is also unclear how far the Biden administration will go to tackle legislative efforts to curtail rights based on gender identity. This includes dozens of bills introduced by Republicans across the country to ban transgender girls from playing sports.
According to a count by CNN, at least 31 states have introduced bills prohibiting transgender students from playing sports that match their gender identity. Laws have been enacted in Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
“The reality is that each case must be investigated individually,” Cardona said. Schools, he added, should “not wait for complaints to come in to resolve these issues.”
He likened the announcement to the establishment of a marker for schools nationwide, alerting them that Biden’s education department would not tolerate discrimination in schools receiving federal funds.
“It’s really clear on how we interpret it,” Cardona said. âWe need to make sure that we support all the students in our schools. “
Experts are skeptical that the new interpretation of Title IX will force local authorities to make changes, including in states that ban transgender athletes, if they are ultimately in compliance with state laws.
“Some schools, especially in states where there is legislation, will simply ignore what the federal government says,” said R. Shep Melnick, professor of politics at Boston College and author of “The Transformation of Title IX: Regulating Gender Equality in Education. “” And then it comes down to whether the federal government wants to take enforcement action, which it may think is somewhat reluctant to do. “
But Mr Biden – whose wife, Jill Biden, is a teacher – has shown a particular willingness to engage in the Title IX changes. As vice-president, Mr. Biden was an integral part to President Barack Obama Title IX overhaul efforts, in part by issuing guidelines that led to aggressive investigations into schools that had mismanaged sexual assault complaints and threatened them with budget cuts. Rules proposed in 2018 by Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary to President Donald J. Trump, erased that and cemented procedures that strengthened due process rights for accused students.
Two months into his presidency, Mr Biden asked Mr Cardona to conduct a thorough review of all policies related to the law. The move came just after the administration in February withdrew its support for a Trump-era lawsuit aimed at preventing transgender students from participating in girls’ high school sports. The Civil Rights Office also overturned the Trump administration’s decision Suspend federal funding to Connecticut schools that allowed transgender girls and women to compete in sports teams with biological girls and women.
Throughout Mr. Trump’s presidency, his administration revoked Obama-era guidelines on the rights of transgender students, but failed to put in place its own regulations. In 2017, the administration repealed protections for transgender students that allowed them to use toilets that match their gender identity. This directive, administration officials said, was made “without due regard to the primary role of states and local school districts in setting education policy.”
The Trump administration also threatened last year to suspend federal aid to schools that allowed trans athletes to participate in school sports.
The Education Department has not reinstated Obama-era guidelines and is still conducting its Title IX policy review. In April, officials invited students, educators and other stakeholders to share their ideas on “the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and l ‘gender identity’. Mr Cardona said the department heard from thousands of teachers, students, parents and administrators who wanted to influence the existing rules.
“We are in the process of synthesizing this information as we take the next steps in developing our rules,” Cardona said on Tuesday. He did not provide a timetable for the completion of the work, but added: âWe will get there as quickly as possible. We know a lot of people are waiting.