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Dive Brief:

  • House Democrats are urging the U.S. Department of Education to finalize its two highly anticipated Title IX regulations as quickly as possible, arguing their continual delay leaves sexual assault survivors, transgender students and other historically marginalized groups without adequate civil rights protections. 
  • The Biden administration missed the October deadline it set to release the two rules. One would direct how federally funded schools must investigate and resolve sexual assault complaints, while the other would prevent blanket bans on transgender students participating in athletics aligned with their gender identity. 
  • The Education Department has not disclosed when it will issue the final regulations. That delay preserves Trump-era policies “that weakened protections for sexual assault and harassment survivors and sowed confusion about the extent of students’ protections against sex discrimination,” 66 lawmakers wrote in a letter to the department Thursday. The agency received and will review the letter, a spokesperson said Thursday.

Dive Insight:

Title IX is the law banning sex-based discrimination — and by extension, sexual abuse — in federally funded institutions. 

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in 2020 instituted the Title IX regulations that stand today, which mandate colleges hold live hearings to address sexual abuse reports. The rule also narrowed the scope of cases colleges would need to investigate, drawing the ire of sexual abuse prevention groups.

One of the Biden administration’s regulatory proposals would grant colleges more flexibility in investigating sexual assaults. Potential options include maintaining those live hearings or tapping a single official to examine and decide on a case. 

Its second planned rule — which intends to protect transgender students under Title IX — has garnered some criticism from pro-LGBTQ+ organizations. That’s because in some cases, federally funded schools would be able to keep transgender players from joining teams matching their gender identity, if they decided it was for reasons like fairness or safety.

The Education Department had set a May release date for the rules, then pushed it back to October — and the agency has not yet set a new timeline. The department has said it’s still parsing through roughly 240,000 public comments it received on the broad Title IX rule, and 150,000 on the athletics-focused one. 

“We are concerned about the delay,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, led by the Rep. Lois Frankel, chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and Rep. Mark Takano, co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

Tanko was part of a virtual news conference Thursday to discuss the request to the Education Department. It featured representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ lobbying groups, and the National Women’s Law Center.

These types of advocacy organizations have continually asked the Education Department about the rules’ release, said Shiwali Patel, the law center’s senior counsel and director of justice for student survivors. 

But since October, they’ve been in the dark on timing, Patel said. The rules haven’t even been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget yet, a key step before publication. OMB can take up to 120 days in its review.

“At this point, we’re unsure,” Patel said.

Title IX been a hot-button political topic since the Obama administration released guidance in 2011 that sexual violence survivors credit with bringing new attention to the issue. But critics, namely due process and men’s rights activists, said the policies pressured institutions to find students responsible for sexual violence, even when evidence against the accused was weak. 

The Obama administration also put forth Title IX guidance on transgender students in 2016, which ordered colleges to allow them to use the bathrooms and pronouns of their choice. DeVos also rescinded those policies.