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New Title IX regulations intensify fight over transgender youth restrictions in schools

Written by on May 14, 2024

(WASHINGTON) — Several conservative-led states are rallying against new federal Title IX regulations announced by the Biden administration that codify protections for transgender people in schools.

The new federal rules officially add “gender identity” to the list of protections from sex-based discrimination for the first time. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex at any institution that receives federal funding.

“For more than 50 years, Title IX has promised an equal opportunity to learn and thrive in our nation’s schools free from sex discrimination,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in an announcement on the revision. “These final regulations build on the legacy of Title IX by clarifying that all our nation’s students can access schools that are safe, welcoming and respect their rights.”

Schools could violate Title IX if a transgender person isn’t allowed to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity or if they are not referred to by their chosen pronoun, according to senior administration officials.

This change directly conflicts with state laws in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and more. These laws ban transgender students from using facilities — like bathrooms or locker rooms — that align with their gender identity and restrict the use of chosen pronouns and names, either by requiring parental permission or by allowing teachers to not use the preferred pronouns and name.

Legal battles are expected to continue to spread across the country in light of the new rules – both in favor of and against trans student protections.

Some states are already suing the federal government to keep their policies involving transgender people in place, claiming the new additions are unconstitutional. On the other hand, LGBTQ students, their families and advocacy groups are suing those states to get rid of such policies, calling them discriminatory.

In a statement announcing Texas’ lawsuit against the Title IX changes, state Attorney General Ken Paxton said the rule clarification “violates existing federal law, ignores the Constitution, and denies women the protections that Title IX was intended to afford them” by allowing transgender people to use accommodations or pronouns that align with their gender identity.

“When you’re talking about the rights of people and the right of someone based on their gender identity to enter into women’s spaces, all of a sudden that starts taking away opportunities and privacy from women,” said Independent Women’s Law Center Director May Mailman in an interview with ABC News.

Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy organization in the state, believes that Texas’ policies regarding the transgender community aren’t about protecting women, citing the state’s restrictive record on abortions and reproductive health care. Instead, Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, argues that the community is being used for political gain.

“We’ve seen it before, where anti-LGBTQ extremists tried to sensationalize parts of our lives that most Americans — most Texans — wouldn’t necessarily know very much about,” Martinez said in an interview with ABC News. “They take that knowledge gap and fill it with disinformation and misinformation in hopes that it leads to outrage, hysteria, and then they use that hysteria that is manufactured by them to legislate against us.”

Several legal organizations, including Lamba Legal, have already cited Title IX in their fights against anti-transgender legislation. They argue that Title IX guarantees that transgender youth “have an equal right to go about their everyday lives at school in peace and with dignity” in its case against Idaho bathroom restrictions.

The Title IX change was welcomed by LGBTQ advocates, students and families who have been bombarded with headlines of anti-LGBTQ legislation throughout the year. They say policies restricting bathroom use and pronoun or name use heighten concerns about anti-trans bullying and harassment against students forced to use the pronoun, name or bathroom that do not align with their gender identity.

There have been 515 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures this year – many of which aimed to restrict trans bathroom use or trans student pronouns and name changes, according to the ACLU.

However, the majority of these bills have been defeated and not become law.

The Title IX rule change shows LGBTQ youth “that they’re important enough to care about and protect,” said Martinez.

Sandra Schmidt, a Columbia University professor of social studies education, said she expects the rule change to prompt schools to look more closely at how they talk about gender or implement gendered policies in schools.

Schmidt told ABC News she believes it could make schools also revisit bullying policies, LGBTQ representation in curriculum and more.

A decision on whether transgender athletes can or cannot be restricted from participating on teams aligned with their gender identity was not included in the new Title IX decision. However, that process is still ongoing, according to a senior administration official.

The new regulations for Title IX take effect on August 1 – meaning schools have about three months to be in compliance with the updated policies.

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