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Biden's Title IX reforms would roll back Trump-era rules, expand victim protections

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at the White House on April 27. The Biden administration proposed a dramatic rewrite of campus sexual assault rules on Thursday, moving to expand protections for LGBTQ students, bolster the rights of victims and widen colleges' responsibilities in addressing sexual misconduct.
Updated June 23, 2022 at 2:40 PM ET

The Department of Education said Thursday that it plans to reinstate Title IX regulations tossed out by the Trump administration. Proposed changes would combat sexual discrimination in schools by boosting victim protections and modifying language to include sexual orientation and gender identity for LGBTQI+ students.

Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, more commonly known as Title IX, which protects students from sexual discrimination in educational programs and activities.

To commemorate the occasion, President Biden and the Department of Education announced proposed amendments to the legislation that would reinstate victim protections that were rolled back by President Donald Trump.

"Over the last fifty years, our nation has made monumental progress in advancing equity and equality for all students, including by narrowing gender gaps in sports, expanding opportunities in science and technology fields, and protecting students from sex discrimination, including sex-based harassment and sexual violence," Biden said in White House statement.

"This is what America is all about: possibilities. Millions of women and girls have benefited from the change that Title IX helped make possible," he added.

What changes are in the proposed amendments

The Department of Education said the amendments will include clarifying text to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to strengthen the rights of LGBTQI+ students.

"They would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX, except in some limited areas set out in the statute or regulations," the department said.

The department also said it plans to issue a separate notice of proposed rulemaking to address whether and how the agency should amend the Title IX regulations to address students' eligibility to participate on a particular male or female athletics team.

Amendments will also include language to prevent discrimination base on sex stereotypes and pregnancy, the department said. It would require schools to provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students and reasonable break time for pregnant employees as well as lactation spaces.

And parents, guardians and a student's authorized legal representative would have greater protections to act on a student's behalf. That would allow these parties to seek assistance under Title IX and participate in grievance procedures, the department said.

Restoring victim protections

In May 2020, Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, announced sweeping Title IX changes that reduced schools' reporting responsibilities and strengthened the rights of the accused. The changes were believed to be a "more reliable adjudication process that is fair to all students," the department said in 2020.

The Biden administration's proposed changes would reverse many of the previous controversial rules.

"Those regulations weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination," the department said Thursday.

Under the Trump-era regulations, some forms of sex-based harassment weren't considered to be Title IX violations. But the proposed changes, which will undergo a public comment period before being finalized, will include all "unwelcome sex-based conduct that creates a hostile environment by denying or limiting a person's ability to participate in or benefit from a school's education program or activity."

The Trump administration's version of Title IX, which remains in place until the amendments are approved, only requires educational institutions to investigate formal sexual harassment complaints. The Department of Education said it would keep as much of the current regulation as possible to ensure consistency, but Biden's changes would require schools to investigate all complaints.

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