Biden administration introduces new protections for trans and non-binary students

The updated rules protect against gender discrimination when it comes to pronouns and bathroom use, but fails to offer protections for transgender athletes.

Photo of student washing hands in school bathroom, representing the new Biden policy protecting transgender students

Under Joe Biden’s administration, the United States Department of Education updated Title IX to increase protections for trans and non-binary students in public schools. The new rule aims to offer students in the US a safe, welcoming and rights-respecting educational environment.

Title IX is a 1972 women’s rights law that outlaws sex-based discrimination in education. The updated version of the policy has been under development for the past two years to expand it to protect against the discrimination of transgender and non-binary students.

The new version explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and under it, school districts that refuse to respect a student’s pronouns or try to force transgender students to use bathrooms that don’t align with their gender identity could be committing a federal civil rights violation.

This comes following the Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision which identifies these forms of discrimination as civil rights violations.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon shared that the new regulations were developed after collecting extensive feedback from over 240,000 public comments. She said: “These regulations are not just updates; they are an overhaul aimed at ensuring full protection under Title IX.”

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the new rule makes it “crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights.”

The critical need for these new regulations was made more apparent following the tragic death of Nex Benedict, a transgender student in Oklahoma who died by suicide after experiencing bullying at school where he was allegedly attacked in a girls’ bathroom.

Schools are now legally obligated to take immediate action against LGBTQ+ discrimination which includes promptly responding to complaints of discrimination with fair, transparent and reliable processes that include trained, unbiased staff to evaluate situations of discrimination and prevent their recurrence.

To help schools prepare to implement these new regulations and ensure the policy is understood and applied, the Department of Education is providing resources and technical assistance to school administration.

The policy applies to all US public elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges that receive federal money. It will come into effect on August 1, 2024, and apply to the 2024-2025 school year.

While this is a positive step, the Biden administration originally forecasted that this version of the policy would also prevent schools from banning trans students from participating in sports teams. However, that provision was put on hold, meaning that Title IX fails to offer protections for transgender athletes.

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