Biden implements new Title IX rules to strengthen protections for sexual assault survivors and LGBTQ students

The Biden administration has officially completed a much-anticipated revision of Title IX, the federal law safeguarding students against sex- and gender-based discrimination. 

The new regulations will overturn policies implemented during the Trump administration, which critics argue have favored individuals accused of sexual assault on college campuses. Joe Biden condemned his predecessors’ Title IX rules as a way to “overlook sexual violence and deprive survivors of their rights” while campaigning for president. 

Colleges will now be permitted to apply a lower standard to determine the guilt of individuals involved in sexual misconduct. A significant change is that schools will be required to promptly address all forms of sex-based discrimination, not just limited to sexual harassment, as the current standard dictates. 

Additionally, colleges will eliminate the controversial live hearing mandate, including potentially distressing cross-examinations between victims and their alleged perpetrators of sex-based misconduct.

Victims’ rights advocates have been eagerly anticipating this change since Biden assumed office. The rule, which has navigated bureaucratic processes for years and is still pending final approval, was announced several months after the Education Department’s original projection. 

Appealing for ‘immediate action’:Biden vows reforming Title IX as students grow impatient

The new regulations will formally broaden the protections for LGBTQ individuals within educational institutions by solidifying definitions that shield queer and transgender individuals from harassment or discrimination in federally funded schools. Pregnant students will also receive improved safeguards under the new rules. 

During a briefing with the press on Thursday, top Education Department officials praised the changes as the most extensive reforms to Title IX since its inception. 

“Under the current regulations, schools must take sufficient measures to address sex discrimination,” stated Catherine Lhamon, the agency’s assistant secretary for civil rights, “fully realizing the Title IX provision that prohibits any form of sex discrimination in schools.”

The new regulations are slated to come into effect on August 1, according to the Education Department, applying to incidents occurring on or after that date.

This announcement upholds one of Biden’s significant campaign pledges, albeit towards the end of his first term. While critics of the Trump-era regulations commend the Biden administration for moving to reverse them, frustration over the government’s pace has unsettled even proponents of the president’s efforts. The possibility of a second Trump term could potentially initiate the reversal of these standards mere months following their implementation, depending on the outcome of the upcoming general election in November.

Emma Grasso Levine, a senior manager with the advocacy group Know Your IX, lauded the administration on Friday but cautioned that colleges now face a substantial task with limited time to meet the updated guidelines. 

“School administrators must act promptly to implement and enforce the revised guidance,” Levine emphasized. “Student survivors of sexual violence, LGBTQ+ students, as well as pregnant and parenting students, cannot endure any longer under policies jeopardizing their right to education.”

Several Republicans in Washington, including Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., have resorted to anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in criticizing Biden’s handling of Title IX. The conservative congresswoman accused the president on Friday of “seeking to dramatically redefine sex and gender.” 

This convoluted situation underscores the extent to which the landmark 1972 law has become a contentious political issue. In recent years, the politicization of the statute has left enforcement officials in schools grappling with conflicting directives, while students, particularly those from marginalized groups, find themselves caught in the middle.

Uncertainty persists over rules for trans athletes

In a separate initiative, the Biden administration aims to limit schools’ capacity to bar transgender athletes from participating in sports. A rule proposed last April suggested a nuanced approach to allow trans students to compete according to their gender identity, with certain exceptions. 

While this rule remains ensnared in bureaucratic processes, Friday’s announcement raised questions about the administration’s plans for the timeline regarding this matter.

The involvement of transgender students in school sports has become a contentious cultural issue in recent years amidst a broader conservative-led push to restrict the rights of individuals whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex. 

Former President Donald Trump, in his bid to unseat Biden this fall, has highlighted this topic, expressing his disapproval of trans athletes during his rally speeches.

When queried on Thursday about whether election concerns have influenced the timeline for the regulation concerning trans athletes, the Education Department declined to comment. 

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