Ministry of Education will protect the rights of trans students
During the Trump administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (remember her?) Revoked an Obama-era directive that interpreted Title IX of the Higher Education Act as protecting students on the basis of their gender identity. Now the Biden administration’s Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is leading a charge to restore those protections.
“Today, the ministry is making it clear that all students, including LGBTQ + students, deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools free from discrimination,” Cardona said in a statement. Press release announcing the new “Interpretation notice», A first step in the department codifying new rules. It’s important to note that the Education Department has not reinstated Obama-era guidelines in the midst of a review of its policies.
But what’s almost certainly to come is a rule stating that schools that receive federal funding will not be allowed to discriminate against transgender or non-binary students. It also paves the way for students who have been discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity to file a Title IX complaint through the Civil Rights Office of the Ministry of Education.
Part of the justification for the annulment is a decision of the Supreme Court in Bostock vs. Clayton, published a year and two days ago, in which the court – in an opinion drafted by Trump’s candidate judge Judge Neil Gorsuch – ruled that gay, lesbian and transgender workers are protected by rights law civilians, that the prohibition of discrimination “on the basis of sex” also excludes discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Title IX contains the almost identical phrase “basis of sex”, so it makes sense that the ruling also applies to how this statute is interpreted. The Education Department directly cited the Supreme Court ruling as the rationale for the change.
The news comes as eight states have banned transgender students from playing sports that match their gender identities. Anti-transgender lawmakers have introduced similar bills in 26 other states.
The new guidelines from the Department of Education will not immediately invalidate these state laws – it’s an issue a court will almost certainly decide. Where it will be felt the most are individual cases reported and investigated by the Office of Civil Rights, a federal entity unaffected by state laws. But Cardona hopes that institutions, seeing which way the wind is blowing, will be proactive in complying with what the new rule will say.
“The reality is that each case must be investigated individually,” Cardona said said to New York Times. Schools should “not wait for complaints to come in to sort out these problems.”
But given that this is the issue of the Culture War Day, officials of the conservative state are unlikely to simply abandon their efforts to discriminate against transgender people. Even though they ultimately failed to codify discrimination into state and federal laws, the controversy allows them to stir up outrage, fundraise, and castigate their political opponents as anti-religious.
The stakes are of course much higher for transgender and non-binary students who are discriminated against by the institutions responsible for protecting and educating them. And although he did not provide a timeline for the adoption of the new rule, Cardona has signaled that he knows time is running out.
“We will move forward as quickly as possible on this. We know a lot of people are waiting.