- The U.S. Department of Education has delayed releasing the final versions of its two Title IX regulatory proposals until October.
- Initially, the two final rules were expected this month, but the Education Department said in an online post Friday it was still reviewing hundreds of thousands of public comments on the proposals.
- Title IX is the federal law banning sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools. The two draft rules outline when colleges would need to investigate reports of sexual violence and prohibit blanket bans on transgender athletes participating on teams aligned with their gender identities.
The Biden administration has made rewriting Title IX policies a key regulatory priority, intent on reversing a rule set by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Advocates for sexual assault survivors argue the DeVos rule licenses colleges to ignore campus sexual violence.
One of the Biden administration’s Title IX plans would broaden the types of sexual assault reports colleges need to investigate, including many of those that allegedly occurred off campus.
The other proposed Title IX rule would block categorical bans on transgender athletes playing on teams aligned with their gender identities. However, federally funded schools could still restrict transgender students’ participation for certain reasons, such as preventing sports injuries and ensuring fair competitions.
Both rules were due to be finalized this month. But pundits were skeptical over the timing because the Education Department, as part of the regulatory process, must review every public comment on them.
The agency said it received more than 150,000 comments on its draft athletics rule and over 240,000 on its more extensive Title IX proposal.
240,000-plus comments is nearly twice as many as the number DeVos’ Title IX plan received, the Education Department said.
“Carefully considering and reviewing these comments takes time, and is essential to ensuring the final rule is enduring,” it said.
Women’s rights and LGBTQ+ advocates have pressed the Education Department to move forward quickly with the two Title IX rules with the hopes they could be in place for the coming academic year.
This likely won’t be possible, as October is a couple of months into most institutions’ academic calendars.
Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement that postponing the rules won’t allow colleges to update their policies by the fall, the time of year when students are at especially high risk for sexual assault.
“We are deeply disappointed that as the result of today’s announcement, the Trump rules will continue to impose harm on student survivors for many more months,” Goss Graves said. “We strongly urge the Department of Education to abandon this planned delay.”
Conservative backlash against the plans, particularly the athletics one, has been mounting. Even before the athletics proposal was formally released, Republican attorneys general threatened to sue over it, saying they sought to safeguard “integrity” in women’s sports.
States including Texas have also moved forward with bills that block transgender athletes from playing in sports that match their gender identities, which clashes directly with the White House’s plan.
One attorney told Higher Ed Dive that if the Education Department finalizes the athletics rule as is, “there will be a good argument that the Texas law cannot be enforced against schools that accept federal funding because it is inconsistent with federal law.”