The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday released its long-awaited overhaul of Title IX rules, undoing one of the major achievements of the Trump administration under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. Under the Biden administration’s proposed rule change, the definition of “sex” would be expanded to include sexual identity and gender orientation, which proponents say would prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in schools.
The Biden administration would also roll back several Trump-era due process protections for students accused of sexual harassment. When DeVos was education secretary, she released a rule that permitted those accused of sexual misconduct greater opportunity to defend themselves during Title IX proceedings.
The rules, which were controversial at the time, required that alleged “sexual harassment” had to be “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activities” in order to trigger Title IX proceedings.
Due process advocates praised the Trump administration for ensuring that colleges and universities give those accused of sexual harassment a fair opportunity to defend themselves during live hearings and cross-examination. But critics said the rules made it harder for victims of sexual assault to seek justice against the person who violated them.
“Over the last 50 years, Title IX has paved the way for millions of girls and women to access equal opportunity in our nation’s schools and has been instrumental in combating sexual assault and sexual violence in educational settings,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Thursday.
“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. 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 added.
A potential consequence of the Biden administration’s new Title IX rules is that schools that do not allow gender dysphoric male athletes to compete on women’s sports teams could lose federal funding.
The Biden administration is setting up a conflict with 18 states that have enacted laws prohibiting men who identify as women from playing in girls and women’s sports leagues.
DeVos called the new rules “a bridge too far” in an interview with Fox News Thursday.
“That they would attempt to expand the definition of biological sex through a rulemaking process, it really is a bridge too far,” she said. “And I hope that, and I trust that many people will raise their voices if what is rumored to be true actually unfolds.”
“They’re also getting a ton of pushback from people who are concerned about protecting women’s sports in particular, and protecting the very important due process protections that we ensured were a part of the whole Title IX requirements for how institutions must handle these issues,” she added.