Biden’s Promised Title IX Reform Leaves Students Weary of the Waiting Game

Joe Biden made a promise during his presidential campaign to reform the 1972 law known as Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination at federally-funded schools. Under the previous administration, those accused of sexual misconduct faced fewer consequences.

Despite this, the previous standards are still in place, and Biden has yet to fulfill his campaign promise for nearly his entire first term. However, last June, his administration proposed an overhaul of the federal rule, offering stronger support for transgender and nonbinary students, as well as victims of sexual assault.

Long-awaited: Biden administration proposes protections for transgender students and against sexual violence in schools

Although the rules have not been finalized, the Education Department stated earlier this year that they expected to complete them by October. However, October has come and gone without the final versions of the rules.

As a result, an increasing number of students and advocates are frustrated with the regulatory gridlock, especially with a likely Trump-Biden rematch on the horizon. Shiwali Patel, the director of Justice for Student Survivors at the National Women’s Law Center, expressed concerns about the impact of the delay on students’ rights.

“They’re now entering their fourth school year under this rule that has significantly deteriorated their rights,” Patel said. “The longer we wait, the closer we get to the end of the administration and the election.”

On Tuesday, students and advocates rallied in front of the White House, demanding immediate action from the Biden administration to end the Trump-era guidance and implement Biden’s proposed protections for transgender and nonbinary student athletes and victims of sexual misconduct.

Sulakshi Ramamoorth, a junior at American University, shared her personal experience of suffering multiple sexual assaults in college. She also expressed the urgency for change, stating that students cannot endure another four years of the current regulations.

“The longer that Biden waits, the higher the risk,” Ramamoorth said.

Keeping secrets: These 6 universities kept Title IX sexual misconduct data secret

Biden moves to protect transgender student athletes

During the summer, the Education Department took a significant step in implementing its guidance on athletic eligibility under Title IX. In April, the administration proposed largely preventing schools from barring transgender and nonbinary students from participating in school sports, with a few exceptions.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized the importance of allowing every student to have the full experience of attending school, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination.

A group of Title IX reform advocates holds up signs saying 'students can't wait' during a protest outside the White House on Tuesday.

This move received praise from LGBTQ+ rights groups while drawing condemnation from Republican members of Congress. The GOP has made the issue a focal point in its party platform, leading to various state laws aimed at preventing trans and nonbinary students from competing and other anti-LGBTQ+ efforts.

On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the GOP-led House Oversight Committee held a hearing with witnesses who opposed Title IX reform, including Riley Gaines, a former competitive swimmer who repeatedly targeted trans woman swimming champion Lia Thomas during the hearing.

Gaines stated, “Let me be perfectly clear: A school that knowingly allows a male athlete to take a spot on a women’s team, or allows a male athlete to take the field in a woman’s game, is denying a female student an athletic opportunity.”

How did Betsy DeVos change Title IX?

During the Trump administration, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has advocated for abolishing the Education Department altogether, eliminated Obama-era Title IX guidance. These changes made it harder for students who experienced sexual harassment or assault to prove their cases.

DeVos implemented several rule changes, including allowing schools to require victims to produce “clear and convincing” evidence of sexual misconduct, which raised the bar compared to the previous standard. In June, the Biden administration announced its intention to lower the bar to a “preponderance of evidence” showing that an alleged event is more likely than not to have occurred. This stance is supported by various victims’ rights groups.

Students and advocates rally outside the White House on Tuesday, calling on the Biden administration to release a final Title IX rule.

What’s behind the delay?

Reforming federal education policy is a complex process. Biden’s efforts to forgive student loans, another campaign promise, have faced criticism from his political adversaries and have encountered legal challenges. Even smaller policy changes, particularly those relating to student loans, have confronted bureaucratic obstacles from the Education Department.

Students and advocates are frustrated that the Biden administration hasn't issued final regulations about handling sexual harassment and discrimination and transgender student participation in K-12 and college sports.

Title IX reform has presented its own set of challenges, though the exact reasons for the delay beyond typical regulatory hurdles are uncertain. In a letter to the department, dozens of House Democrats urged the administration to expedite the process.

The Education Department stated it is thoroughly examining hundreds of thousands of public comments regarding the proposed Title IX rules and intends to complete the process as soon as possible. However, the agency did not provide additional information or clarification when asked for further details.

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