Dear President Biden:
As civil rights advocates and advocates for student survivors of sex-based harassment, we applaud the Biden administration’s work towards ensuring safe, fair, and equal opportunities for all students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). This includes taking steps towards undoing the Trump administration’s weakening of civil rights protections for student survivors and ensuring the protection of LGBTQI+ students in the face of mounting violent threats, hateful rhetoric, and cruel attacks from state officials. In keeping with this commitment and the broad promise of Title IX to prevent all forms of sex-based discrimination, we urge the swift release of a robust proposed rule by the Department of Education (“Department”) by the 50th Anniversary of Title IX on June 23, 2022.
In light of this anniversary and the increasingly urgent need for this rule, we are deeply concerned about the delay in its publication. Even though the Department previously indicated the proposed Title IX rule would be issued in April 2022, no such proposed rule has been published. Students are protesting across the country, demanding that their schools meaningfully address sex-based harassment; they are in desperate need of Title IX’s full protections. The proposed rule is critical to begin the regulatory process for undoing the harmful changes made to the Title IX rule in 2020 (“the 2020 Rule”), and to address mounting threats to LGBTQI+ students and school communities. While sex-based harassment in schools remains pervasive, the 2020 Rule pushes schools to ignore many instances of sex-based harassment, leaving scores of survivors without recourse, and imposes overly prescriptive and unfair grievance procedures that are harmful to student survivors, that deter reporting, and that are not required for any other type of school disciplinary proceeding. These harms especially fall on women and girls of color, disabled survivors, LGBTQI+ survivors, and pregnant and parenting survivors, all of whom face stereotypes casting them as less credible when they report sexual misconduct.
It is also increasingly urgent to clarify Title IX’s protections for LGBTQI+ students in the face of escalating threats to their well-being, safety, and educational opportunities. It has been well-documented that LGBTQI+ students experience widespread discrimination in schools, including high rates of harassment, violence, and discriminatory discipline. In recent months, state lawmakers and officials across the country have enacted unprecedented laws and policies—grossly inconsistent with Title IX— banning students from school restrooms and sports, censoring discussion of their very existence, and punishing adults who seek to help protect their health and safety. Already we have seen teachers fired, students ejected from teams, yearbooks and library books pulled from circulation. Most concerning, we are now seeing escalating violent rhetoric, threats, and actions directed at LGBTQI+ youth and adults who support them—from death threats to school leaders, to calls for violence outside family-friendly Pride events, to a town virtually shut down by bomb threats expressly linked to the opening of a Title IX harassment investigation. LGBTQI+ students desperately need a strong rule that codifies the law’s protection against all forms of anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination and schools’ responsibility to take action to protect them.
Finally, at a time when reproductive rights are under attack, pregnant and parenting students are at risk of experiencing even more barriers to completing their education. Pregnant and parenting students need stronger protections under Title IX to combat the levels of discrimination and harassment they face. Stronger Title IX protections must include lactation accommodations, reasonable modifications to their education programs, and clear grievance procedures for reported pregnancy discrimination.
It has been a year since the Department held public hearings on Title IX, yet we are still waiting for the administration to move forward in ensuring protection of student survivors, LGBTQI+ students, and pregnant and parenting students by releasing a proposed Title IX rule. Not only does delay increase the number of survivors who will suffer because the 2020 Rule remains in place until changes to it are finalized, but it also threatens the purpose and significance of Title IX as its 50th anniversary approaches.
A celebration of 50 years of Title IX’s promise to end discrimination on the basis of sex in education will ring hollow if the Department has failed to act to make good on that promise by moving forward in undoing a rule premised on offensive and sexist stereotypes about sex-based harassment. The Department should restore broad protections for student survivors, commit to ending sex-based harassment and support pregnant and parenting students, solidify its commitment to supporting LGBTQI+ students, and honor 50 years of Title IX by releasing a proposed Title IX rule before June 23. Thank you for your consideration of our call for the prompt release of the Title IX rule in order to protect against sex discrimination in schools. If you have any questions about this letter, please contact Emily Martin ([email protected]), Shiwali Patel ([email protected]), or Hunter Iannucci ([email protected]).
National Women’s Law Center, joined by
(see full list of organizations)