The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a rule change that would prohibit schools from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes from teams that are consistent with their gender identities, but offered flexibility on exceptions for the highest levels of competition.
The proposed change to Title IX is likely to revive debates about transgender rights, particularly in sports. Across the country, there has been a push by conservative U.S. lawmakers to prevent transgender women from participating in school sports.
The proposal would also offer flexibility to K-12 schools and universities to limit the participation of transgender students when including them could undermine “fairness in competition” or potentially lead to sports-related injuries.
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding.
Under the changes proposed by the White House, which must undergo a period of public comment, elementary school students would generally be able to participate in school sports consistent with their gender identity. But for older students, questions of fairness and physicality could come into play.
“Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Being on a sports team is an important part of the school experience for students of all ages.”
The rule is expected to be challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to let West Virginia enforce a state law banning transgender athletes from female sports teams at public schools, one of many Republican-backed measures across the country targeting LGBTQ rights.
“South Dakota will not allow this to stand. We will lead. We will defend our laws. Only girls will play girls’ sports. President Biden, we’ll see you in court,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted on Thursday.
Title IX requires schools to provide equal opportunities for women in U.S. education programs. It has been credited with opening the door to more women in sports.
Critics say transgender women who take part in women’s sports are often bigger and stronger than their cisgender opponents and have an unfair advantage.