How to prepare your school for new Title IX’s Aug. 1 debut

It's going to be a significant shift for school leaders, one expert tells us. However, there will be more flexibility regarding how harassment cases will be addressed.

Last week, the Biden administration released its long-awaited updates to Title IX, largely expanding on the previous regulations implemented during Donald Trump’s presidency, which many argued gave more rights to alleged sexual assault and harassment perpetrators. The most recent updates, however, will require careful navigation by schools, one expert says.

For more than 50 years, Title IX has played a pivotal role in America’s schools as a promise to students of equitable education opportunities free from sex-based discrimination. That includes the protection of LGBTQ+ as well as parenting and pregnant students, according to the new rules.

What’s changed?

Effective Aug. 1, Biden’s Title IX overhaul expands upon the meaning of sexual assault and harassment, and this change may increase the number of cases filed. As for K12 schools, LGBTQ+ students are now guaranteed protection by law if they experience harassment based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The old regulations also required schools to investigate claims of sexual assault only if they met a particular standard or threshold of sex-based discrimination, which had to be done through a formal reporting process. They also didn’t allow for the investigation of cases that took place off college campuses.

As for pregnant and parenting students, those who receive unwelcomed sexual attention or punishment at schools are given additional protections to avoid sex discrimination on campus and during admissions.

However, the updated ruling does not specify whether transgender and nonbinary students can partake in sports that align with their gender, despite the administration’s proposed Title IX changes in April 2023 that argued schools couldn’t ban such students from participating on their preferred sports teams.

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Elizabeth Troutman, an education attorney with the Brooks Pierce law firm in Greensboro, North Carolina, says schools will have to navigate the new rules per their state-specific laws and the language outlined in the new regulations, which require students to be given equal opportunities at school.

“Gender identity and sexual orientation are protected characteristics and that’s made explicit in these regulations,” she says.

It’s not much different than how the law has been interpreted up until this point, she adds. However, it will be increasingly important for school leaders to focus on ensuring equitable access to opportunities at school.

Preparing for Aug. 1

Schools have less than four months until they have to adhere to these new standards, which may require some administrators to develop new policies and protections for students ahead of the upcoming school year.

Troutman says the Biden administration’s updates have increased the number and type of issues that have to be addressed through the Title IX coordinator.

“That’s going to be a really big shift to say, ‘Look, you need to report to the Title IX coordinator for the school system for a lot more issues than you are currently reporting if you’re a principal,'” she says.

“On the flip side,” she adds, “they have added a lot of flexibility into how the issues get addressed, at least for K12 schools. In that way, it’s helpful to be able to look at a situation and consider the age and maturity of the students involved and the context in which the harassment occurred.”

Could election season reverse these changes?

Election season is well underway and recent polls suggest an extremely tight race between the two leading candidates, incumbent Joe Biden and former president Trump. However, school leaders shouldn’t waste their time speculating whether the Title IX updates will last.

“They’ve gone through notice and comment rule-making, which is a significant process,” she explains. “That’s what the Trump administration had to go through in order to adopt the regulations in 2020. That took them four years.”

Similarly, Biden promised during his campaign in 2020 to roll back the regulations implemented under former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and we’re just now seeing his pledge come to fruition.

“It’s almost four years to the day since the Trump administration ruled out the 2020 regulations,” says Troutman. “I think what we learned from that experience is we’re just going to follow the law. Trying to predict what an administration is going to do and in what time frame is sort of a waste of time.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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