Three state superintendents and 25 Republican governors have commented publicly on the Biden administration’s proposed changes to Title IX, which would require K-12 schools and colleges to consider banning or allowing transgender athletes in sports.
Monday was the last day the public could comment on the Department of Education’s proposed changes to the law, which has outlawed sex discrimination in education since 1972. Of the 156,159 comments made before the deadline, including those from governors and state education leaders, about 134,000 are publicly posted.
The state superintendents for North Carolina, Louisiana and Arizona wrote in public comments to the Education Department that they opposed the changes to Title IX, which would prohibit blanket bans on transgender student participation in sports and require districts to evaluate criteria to determine a transgender student’s eligibility.
North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, Catherine Truitt, said that there is a reason why competitive sports have separated biological males from females.
“We can respect individual gender preferences without reconstructing Title IX to inherently disadvantage women. Biological sex must be the basis for sporting events,” Truitt wrote in her public comment.
“This proposed rule robs female athletes of those very opportunities Title IX is supposed to protect as this reconstructed mandate reduces her odds for a podium finish,” Truitt added.
Cade Brumley, Louisiana’s state superintendent of education, echoed Truitt’s concerns about fairness and the spirit of federal protection.
“To maintain dignity, keep athletes safe, and ensure the continued fairness in women’s sports, competition should be divided by biological sex unless the sport is coed in nature,” Brumley wrote. “This proposed rule runs counter to the tremendous efforts of female athletes – and their advocates – over many years to realize equal opportunity in sport.”
Tom Horne, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, said the changes run afoul with state law that prevents biological males from participating in girls sports unless it is in a limited coeducational capacity. Horne also said it isn’t an LGBTQ issue.
“When I was in the Arizona legislature, I voted for every bill to extend civil rights to LGBT people,” Horne wrote. “But permitting biological boys to compete in girls’ sports is extremely unfair, and in some cases, devastating to girl competitors.
“There are numerous news articles about girls who worked hard to excel in their sports, and then were devastated when they could not excel because they had to compete against biological boys, who have the advantage of male muscle mass and bone structure,” Horne continued. “If there were a sport for which male physical qualities were not an advantage, there would be no reason to divide boys from girls’ sports and they could have a mixed gender team. Otherwise, boys’ sports need to be for biological males, and girls’ sports for biological females.”
Republican governors from 25 states took issue with the Department of Education’s authority to make rules based on “gender identity,” which they argue is not in Title IX and has not gained congressional approval.
“The plain language used in Title IX does not allow the sweeping rewrites of Title IX that the Department persists in seeking,” the governors wrote. “It is undisputed that Title IX prohibits discrimination ‘on the basis of sex.‘”
The governors also took issue with how the proposed rules would charge school districts to make decisions and said the changes would not be fair to girls and women.
“Leaving aside the Department’s utter lack of authority to promulgate such a regulation, neither states nor schools should be subjected to such a fluid and uncertain standard,” the joint comment reads. “Nor, most importantly, should the historic advancements and achievements of our sisters, mothers, and daughters be erased.”
A host of other organizations and individuals also weighed in on the rules, including pro-LGBTQ+ entities, teachers, parents and activists.
Equitas Health, a healthcare organization serving the LGTBQ+ communities in Ohio, Texas, Kentucky and West Virginia, submitted comments that the Department of Education should protect transgender athletes and disregard concerns about safety and fairness.
“Specifically, our agency is concerned that states and educational facilities across the country
may still seek to prohibit the participation of transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and
intersex youth and young adults under faulty logic that claims to be about ‘fairness’ and/or
‘safety,'” Equitas Health wrote.
“Such claims have often already been employed in the creation of numerous categorical bans across the country, and this so-called ‘logic’ relies upon misinformation about gender expansive and intersex athletes, while also specifically perpetuating transmisogyny,” Equitas commented.
The Penns Valley Area School Board submitted a comment strongly opposed to the proposed changes, pointing to the advantages transgender female athletes have in interscholastic sports and how different districts’ interpretations of the proposed rules could create a “wide spectrum of interpretations additionally exacerbating fair competition.”
“We are supportive of the mental health and emotional well-being of all students in the District, including the concepts of inclusiveness and belonging,” the Penn Valley board wrote. “We do not, however, support one demographic over another, or stated more specifically with reference to this proposed regulation, a policy that would or could disadvantage biological females.”