Ed Dept’s proposed rule for transgender athletes sparks criticism, praise

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The U. S. Department of Education announced a Title IX rule change Thursday that would prohibit blanket bans on transgender students who participate in sports in favor of a number of factors intended to balance fair competition and allowing students to play on a team matching their gender identity.

The proposed rules have been met with condemnation from politicians on both sides of the aisle and conservative groups while teachers unions and progressive groups hailed the proposed changes as a win for transgender athletes.

The federal rules would require that grade, education level, competition and sport be taken into account if school districts, colleges and universities that receive federal funds were considering restricting transgender students from participating in teams consistent with their gender identity.

The rules would allow the prohibition of transgender student participation on certain teams in higher grades or collegiate sports in order to achieve “fairness in competition.”

“This latest move by the Biden admin is anti-women,” Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “Protecting women’s sports is essential, and Republicans will not let the admin dismantle Title IX.”

Rep. Alexendria Ocasio-Cortez also criticized the proposed rules on the platform while referencing another tweet decrying the rule allowing for some prohibitions on transgender students competing on teams consistent with their gender identity.

“Absolutely no reason for the Biden admin to do this. It is indefensible and embarrassing,” Ocassio-Cortez wrote. “The admin can still walk this back, and they should. It’s a disgrace.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, argued that the rule changes would negate the meaning of the law.

“Title IX was enacted to protect girls,” Cotton said in a tweet. “These changes would completely undermine its original intent and make school activities and sports less safe.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom which describes itself as “a non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights and the sanctity of life” criticized the proposed changes. 

“The Biden administration’s proposed rules are a slap in the face to female athletes who deserve equal opportunity to compete in their sports,”  ADF senior counsel Christiana Kiefer said in a statement. “The Department of Education’s rewriting of Title IX degrades women and tells them that their athletic goals and placements do not matter.”

The foundation is currently representing female athletes and Christian organizations challenging rules that allow transgender students to play on the team that aligns with their gender identity. 

Parents Defending Education also criticized the proposed rules and the Education Department. 

“The Biden administration is trying to have their cake and eat it, too: inject gender identity into athletics while placing the onus upon school districts to determine whether doing so would be problematic or not,” said Nicole Neilly, president of Parents Defending Education, according to a statement. “Without a doubt, institutions are going to err on the side of ‘inclusion,’ because they fear the wrath of the Education Department.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised the announcement in a statement, saying that it was a step in the right direction for protecting transgender athletes while upholding the law.

“We welcome this guidance,” Weingarten said. “It protects transgender students from politically motivated blanket bans on their participation in sports from numerous states. And it proposes a practical road map for schools and colleges to craft athletic policies and criteria for male and female teams consistent with Title IX.”

The proposed rule would affect 18,000 school districts and over 6,000 colleges and universities. The Education Department estimated in the proposed rulemaking that the changes would cost those entities between $23.4 million and $24.4 million over 10 years. 

Brendan Clarey
Brendan Clarey is K-12 editor at Chalkboard Review. Reach him at bclarey@franklinnews.org.

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