Early this summer, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released an official proposal to update the regulations implementing Title IX, the Federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.
According to ED, the purpose of the proposed updates to the regulations is to “better align the Title IX regulatory requirements with Title IX’s nondiscrimination mandate, and to clarify the scope and application of Title IX and the obligation of all schools, including elementary schools, secondary schools, postsecondary institutions, and other recipients that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department…”
America Forward has consistently advocated for policies that advance safety, equity, and opportunity in our education system, and strengthening Title IX is a critical component of that effort. In response to ED’s request for comment on the proposed regulations, America Forward submitted the following:
On behalf of America Forward and the America Forward Coalition, thank you for the opportunity to share our Coalition’s comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance.
America Forward is the nonpartisan policy initiative of New Profit, a pioneering national venture
philanthropy organization that invests in breakthrough social entrepreneurs and systems-change
initiatives, catalyzes and builds their impact, and transforms how government and philanthropy pursue
social change to ensure that all people can thrive. The America Forward Coalition is made up of more
than 100 innovative, high-impact organizations across the country that are working to solve some of our
most pressing challenges in education, workforce development, and poverty alleviation.
We applaud the Department of Education’s (the Department) proposed rules to require schools to address
and prevent sex-based discrimination and harassment in order to protect students’ well-being and ability
to participate in the classroom and school environment. Specifically, we are grateful to the Department for strengthening the rules to increase protections for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer
(LGBTQ+) students, especially transgender students and those with gender non-conforming identities.
At America Forward, we know that students succeed when they feel safe, secure, affirmed, and supported. We strongly believe in the importance of meeting students’ holistic social and emotional needs as whole-learners through welcoming and supportive school climate, strong relationships with peers and
trusted adults, and freedom from fear, and we know that they are as important to learning and
development as well-trained educators and a strong curriculum. In fact, safe and welcoming school
environments and healthy developmental relationships are the foundation upon which effective and
enduring learning takes place.
The already harrowing statistics on queer youth mental health, compounded by the effects of the
COVID-19 pandemic, have made it evermore crucial that queer youth have spaces in school that are
affirming and protective of their identities. Creating this reality has become more difficult for many
schools and teachers as state legislatures across the country have passed laws limiting the expression,
protection, and education of LGBTQ+ youth. That is one reason we see these proposed regulations as
critical to providing schools with the guidance they need to create safe and inclusive educational
environments for all students.
According to the Trevor Project, a leading LGBTQ+ youth-serving organization, 75% of LGBTQ+ youth
reported that they had experienced discrimination on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity in the
past year. In its 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the Trevor Project cites statistics
that raise the alarm on the dire circumstances surrounding queer youth mental health. Overall, 42% of
LGBTQ+ youth surveyed experienced suicidal ideation in the past year, including over half of
transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
Ensuring that every individual learner, from early childhood to postsecondary, thrives in school requires
an education system that promotes safe, healthy environments that set the table for learning and give
students the ability to overcome challenges they experience. Achieving that vision requires alignment of
federal, state and local policies, resources, and tools.
The Department’s proposed amendments to Title IX seek to address the needs of LGBTQ+ youth to feel a
sense of belonging and affirmation of their identity. The clarification on the scope of Title IX’s prohibition
on discrimination on the basis of sex to include language on sexual orientation and gender identity
provides LGBTQ+ students with the protections they need to have what should be every student’s right –
a safe and inclusive learning environment. We see this as consequential considering the Trevor Project
data that shows that students who have access to spaces that affirm their sexual orientation and gender
identity report lower rates of suicidality and mental illness.
Further, we are encouraged that the proposed regulations include a new provision to address the
intersections between the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA), and Title IX. As the Department notes, students with disabilities experience sex-based
harassment at higher rates than their peers. Ensuring that any complaints made under Title IX are carried out in alignment with federal disability law and in coordination with a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or an individual or office that the student has indicated as an advocate is crucial to ensuring equitable processes for all students.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed Rulemaking on Nondiscrimination on the
Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance and the
Department’s consideration of our comments. We see these proposed regulations as vital to creating safer
learning environments, protecting marginalized students, and addressing the mental health crisis in
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