Dear President Biden:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations working to advance educational equity and civil rights, we urge you to swiftly finalize Title IX regulations that strongly protect the rights of LGBTQI+ students, student survivors, and pregnant and parenting students. We also implore you to ensure comprehensive protections for LGBTQI+ youth – especially transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and gender expansive youth – are included by finalizing regulatory updates related to student participation in school sports and affirming transgender students’ right to play. The administration must commit to bold action to safeguard the lives and futures of LGBTQI+ students amid an aggressive and unprecedented effort to silence the LGBTQI+ community and force youth back into the closet.

Our communities are collectively alarmed by the recent death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student in Owasso, Oklahoma. Nex’s death on February 8, one day after being brutally assaulted by other students in a school bathroom,[1] is the unfortunately predictable result of a dangerous mix of hateful rhetoric and discriminatory policies that has targeted LGBTQI+ youth in recent years. In 2022, Oklahoma became one of ten states with laws that require youth who are transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive to use bathrooms that are inconsistent with their gender identity.[2] These state policies stand contrary to the Department’s proposed rules on sex-separated programs and activities and only serve to stigmatize LGBTQI+ students and undermine the safety of LGBTQI+ youth. Consistent with the Department’s proposed rule, we firmly believe that these exclusionary policies violate federal nondiscrimination law.

In the midst of a youth mental health crisis, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among all 10-14 year olds,[3] the administration should use every tool at its disposal to build safer and more inclusive environments for students. LGBTQI+ youth face disproportionately higher rates of mental health challenges, in part due to unsupportive and outright discriminatory environments they must navigate at school.[4] Even though 83% of LGBTQI+ students are harassed at school, 62% of those who are victimized never report an incident to school staff.[5] Clarifying that discriminatory policies that target students like Nex Benedict violate the protection of federal nondiscrimination law will go a long way toward building trust that schools will respond to complaints of harassment, bullying, assault, or discrimination.

The tragedy faced in Oklahoma reverberates with families across the country that fear for the well-being of their LGBTQI+ children, but the impacts of this wave of hate are not limited to LGBTQI+ youth. In the past few weeks, Utah – one of twenty-five states with policies that regulate transgender and nonbinary students’ access to interscholastic sports – has seen two cases of extreme harassment of cisgender athletes fueled by anti-trans rhetoric. On February 6, a member of the Utah State Board of Education publicly questioned the gender of a 16-year-old girl participating on a high school basketball team. As a result, the student was subjected to harassment, bullying, and threats of violence.[6] This came on the heels of another Utah  incident where an angry father confronted school officials at a junior varsity basketball game in Canyons School District, claiming that an athlete on the opposing team was transgender.[7]

Though these incidents are shocking, they are the inevitable result of a long campaign against athletes motivated by anti-transgender hate. That is why updates to Title IX regulations must also be paired with affirmation of transgender students’ rights when participating in school sports. We have long cautioned that discriminatory policies could undermine sports participation by cisgender girls because of the inevitable policing of gender perpetuated by these policies that especially harm girls who do not conform to sex-based stereotypes and Black and brown women and girls for not conforming to white standards of femininity. However, inclusive sports policies have shown to benefit women and girls: the National Federation of State High School Associations reported that states with inclusive sports policies reported a 48% greater increase in women’s sports participation than states with trans-exclusionary policies in the 2022-2023 school year.[8]

In addition, we remain alarmed that the Title IX regulations currently in force still include weakened protections against sexual harassment due to changes made by the Trump administration in 2020 that incentivize schools to further sweep sexual violence under the rug.  Because of those changes, student survivors are being forced to weather the emotionally and academically devastating consequences of having their complaints dismissed because their victimization isn’t deemed “serious enough” or merely because of where they were assaulted; of having to submit to burdensome, unfair, and deeply traumatizing grievance procedures, including direct, live cross-examination; and of being denied critical supportive measures that they need to continue their education in the wake of their victimization. These impacts are particularly felt by survivors of color and LGBTQI+ and disabled survivors, who are more vulnerable to experiencing sexual harassment, but are also less likely to receive critical support from their schools. And finally, pregnant and parenting students[9] are still without the support they need to combat the immense pressure they face to drop classes or withdraw from school entirely from unsupportive educators.[10] These problems are only exacerbated by repressive state laws and policies, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s destructive Dobbs decision.

We thus urge you to swiftly finalize a robust Title IX rule so that LGTBQI+ students, student survivors, and pregnant and parenting students can be assured of their rights and schools can be on clear notice of their civil rights obligations by the federal government. The next generation must not wait for another tragedy. Especially in the midst of this aggressive attack on transgender and gender expansive youth, the administration cannot employ a piecemeal approach when protecting LGBTQI+ students. We urge the administration to move forward with comprehensive protections that ensure LGBTQI+ youth can equally access all educational programs, facilities, and activities – including school sports – free from discrimination. Lives are on the line, and we look to you for leadership that can lead the next generation of youth to a safer and more equitable future.


(See letter and full list of organizations)