FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2022

CONTACT:
Gillian Branstetter, gbranstetter@aclu.org

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Education today issued a notice of proposed rulemaking governing schools’ obligations under Title IX, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.

Louise Melling, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, had the following reaction:

“The proposed regulation takes the critical step, required by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, of making clear that Title IX bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination recognizes the humanity of all people. When LGBTQ youth are supported and affirmed, they are not only more likely to succeed in school but have better mental health outcomes. The Secretary’s action is critical now, as politicians around the country are attacking trans youth. The message is clear and it is right: LGBTQ youth belong in our schools.

“The ACLU is equally committed to ensuring schools do everything in their power to safeguard students from sexual harassment and violence and guaranteeing fair process for students in school disciplinary proceedings.  The proposed regulation laudably corrects the double standard imposed by the Trump administration, which dramatically reduced schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment as compared to other forms of harassment. But we are concerned that the proposed rules deny those facing serious penalties in college disciplinary proceedings important procedural rights, including live hearings and cross-examination.   

 “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, it is vital that Title IX live up to its promise. No student, whether in grade school, high school, or university, should be denied or limited educational opportunities because of sex.  And no student should be denied fair procedures when complaints arise. The government can and must further both ends.”

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, in which the ACLU was counsel, that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII, the workplace nondiscrimination law. The proposed regulation applies this ruling to the education context, provides that transgender students are not excluded from sex-separated facilities, and specifically cites the harm experienced by transgender students excluded on the basis of their gender identity.

The ACLU previously challenged certain provisions of the Title IX regulation issued under former Secretary Betsy DeVos concerning schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment and assault. The proposed regulation addresses objections raised in the ACLU suit, which was filed on behalf of Know Your IX, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc., Girls for Gender Equity, and Stop Sexual Assault in Schools.

The ACLU supports provisions in the proposed regulation that:

  • Make clear that Title IX covers harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex stereotypes
  • Draw from a long-standing definition of “sexual harassment” used for other forms of harassment
  • Require schools to investigate instances of student-on-student harassment or assaults that occur off campus where they affect students’ access to education
  • Hold institutions accountable when they fail to take prompt and effective action to end sex discrimination
  • Clarify that parties should be able to access relevant evidence while limiting access to irrelevant or privileged evidence
  • Clarify that in the limited circumstances where Title IX’s regulations permit differential treatment or separation on the basis of sex, that differential treatment cannot prevent a person who is transgender from participating in an educational program or activity consistent with the person’s gender identity
  • Clarify the definition of discrimination based on status as a parent to include a range of individuals with caregiving responsibilities for children
  • Make clear that the existing prohibition on pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination based on lactation and requires recipients to provide a clean lactation space and break time to express milk for both students and employees.

The ACLU opposes the provisions in the proposed regulation that:

  • Do not require universities to provide a live hearing and an opportunity for cross-examination where serious sanctions, such as suspension or expulsion, may apply
  • Do not explicitly require institutions to delay Title IX proceedings upon the request of a respondent who faces an imminent or ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution.

The ACLU’s written comments for the 2021 Title IX Public Hearing are available here:  https://www.aclu.org/aclu-written-comment-2021-title-ix-public-hearing

Stay Informed