President Joe Biden pledged to strengthen Title IX and reverse changes made during the Trump Administration but these promises have yet to materialize. However, after nearly two and one-half years, reforms may be on the horizon.
Title IX, a landmark civil rights law first enacted in 1972, has emerged as one of the most significant yet disputed legislative acts in recent years. It asserts, “No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The legislation is an established and essential instrument for addressing gender-based inequality; Title IX ensures that educational institutions uphold standards of behavior that prohibit sex-based discrimination, most of which are classified as harassment and assault. This fact is especially salient on college campuses where students are at an increased risk of sexual violence. According to a student experience study conducted in 2018, nearly half of all cisgender women at Duke experienced sexual assault during their undergraduate years. Ensuring the rights of victims through Title IX is paramount.
Former President Donald Trump enacted sweeping changes to Title IX such as requiring live hearings and cross-examinations, excluding incidents that occurred off of university campuses, and changing the formal definition of sexual misconduct. These regulations, “weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination,” according to a press release from the Department of Education.
Updates Under The Biden Administration
President Biden began efforts to revise Trump’s legislation in 2021. In March 2021, an executive order was issued directing Miguel Cardona, the Secretary of Education, to review Title IX rules and to begin amending and repealing processes that were adopted to weaken this legislation. By June 2021, the administration issued a notice prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Department of Education announced in a letter that it would stop enforcing cross-exam regulations in August 2021. The letter was sent in response to the federal district court’s ruling in Victim Rights Law Center Et al. v. Cardona, a case that contested the 2020 revisions to the Title IX standards. The live hearing requirements were deemed “arbitrary and capricious” by the court.
Strengthened Protections For LGBTQI+ Students
On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Department of Education made proposed modifications available for public comment on June 23, 2022. According to the Biden administration, the modifications would reinstate safeguards against sex-based harassment, assault, and discrimination—particularly for LGBTQI+ students who experience prejudice due to sexual orientation or gender identity. These adjustments are intended to retract many of the Trump administration’s changes to achieve equipoise between the rights of survivors and those who have been accused. The proposed regulation expedites institutional response to both formal and informal Title IX complaints, eliminating the need for a formal complaint to be submitted to begin the complaint procedure. Additionally, the standard for assessing hostility was changed from “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to “severe or pervasive.” Finally, the new regulation mandates that schools address behavior, even if the sex-based harassment that contributed to the hostile environment transpired outside of the school’s campus or outside of the United States.
New Athletic Regulations
A further proposed revision was made public in April 2023, which prevents schools from barring transgender athletes from playing sports that correspond to their gender identity. Instead, it would provide schools the authority to exclude a transgender student from participating in sports if doing so would compromise safety, competitive fairness, or any other declared goals of the sport. The proposed rule applies to public K–12 schools, universities, and other institutions that are provided federal funding. This legislation would take precedence over the growing body of state regulations that aim to exclude transgender females from participating in girls’ sports.
Delays Have Halted Progress
Significant delays in the enactment of these regulations have been encountered largely due to the need to examine over 240,000 public comments made throughout the rulemaking process. The final Title IX ruling was set to be released in May 2023 but was later revised to October 2023. With the end of October just days away, many are eagerly awaiting to see if the Department of Education will meet this target.
If the October deadline for final Title IX regulations is met, changes will not be enforced immediately. The Department Of Education will need to transmit the finalized rules to the Office For Management and Budget for review. Publication of the new Title IX regulations is expected to follow four to six months later, and schools are given a grace period of 60 to 90 days until enforcement begins. The earliest the public can expect the implementation of changes is during the Summer of 2024.
Eva Gisele Funaki is from Riverside, IL, studying Economics and Political Science