(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Education on Thursday announced a proposed change to Title IX to prohibit categorical bans on transgender student athletes.
If adopted as a rule, the change would make it illegal for schools or universities to bar transgender student athletes from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identities “just because of who they are,” the department wrote.
While the change would make “one-size-fits-all” prohibitions a violation of Title IX, it would still give schools discretion to develop eligibility rules for sports teams that could ultimately restrict a transgender athlete’s ability to participate.
A senior department administration official said if a school assessed there was a need to limit transgender athletes for the purpose of fairness in competition, safety or other educational interests, it “could identify what basis it was using to do that and why.”
“The proposed regulation would give schools flexibility to identify their own important educational objectives,” the official said. “They might include, for example, fairness and competition, or preventing sports related injuries.”
When asked Thursday how the administration will implement the rule in states that have already passed bans on transgender girls, the official said the government will be “eager” to enforce it throughout the country without providing details.
“The federal civil rights law is the law of the land and we would be eager to ensure its full satisfaction in every school community around the country,” the official said.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona applauded the proposal as a move that will benefit students’ health.
“Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination. Being on a sports team is an important part of the school experience for students of all ages,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Beyond all the benefits to physical and mental health, playing on a team teaches students how to work hard, get along with others, believe in themselves, and build healthy habits that last a lifetime.”
The American Federation of Teachers also celebrated the announcement, saying the change would protect transgender students from politically motivated blanket bans.
But the proposal was met with criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that the suggested change is “anti-women,” adding, “Protecting women’s sports is essential.”
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who sits on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also criticized the proposed change.
“As a father of three girls who all play sports, I’m outraged that the Biden administration wants to force them to compete against biological males,” told ABC News.
“This is scientifically and morally wrong and a slap in the face to girls and women across the country,” he said.
The announcement comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision in favor of a 12-year-old transgender girl and her parents who challenged a West Virginia law that would impose such a ban.
Twenty states have passed laws banning transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a gender equality-focused nonprofit think tank.
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