Attorney General Knudsen leads 15-state coalition against federal attempt to weaken Title IX

Attorney General Knudsen leads 15-state coalition against federal attempt to weaken Title IX

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading a coalition of 15 state attorneys general that today called on the Biden administration to halt its efforts to rewrite federal rules and redefine biological sex to include gender identity. The U.S. Department of Education’s intended rulemaking would undoubtedly conflict with state laws, such as Montana’s, that protect athletic opportunities for women, and the attorneys general said they would take legal action to uphold them against federal encroachment.

Current Title IX rules adopted in 2020 codified regulations regarding sexual harassment under Title IX into law for the first time, setting forth clear legal obligations for schools to respond to allegations of sexual harassment, a process to resolve allegations, and provide remedies to victims.  Now, the Biden Administration intends to rollback those historic rules and use Title IX to impose its agenda on students, parents, and schools.

Title IX was part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

In a letter to Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Knudsen and the attorneys general said the Department has failed to provide sufficient justification for new rulemaking and warned the it “not illegally re-write Title IX to include gender identity.”

“We are also concerned that an interpretation of Title IX that goes beyond sex to include gender identity has and will be used by to improperly intrude into parental decision-making regarding the education and upbringing of their children,” Knudsen and the attorneys general wrote. “An interpretation of Title IX that supports such radical positions runs contrary to the role of the Department of Education, the text of Title IX, and parents’ constitutional right to decide what is in the best interests of their children.”

“The Department has provided no rationale for why the 2020 Rule has proven unworkable or in need of adjustment,” the letter continued. “Modifying or eliminating the 2020 Rule now will only add to the uncertainty and regulatory burden on schools, parents, teachers, and students across America. We strongly urge the Department to cancel its plans to engage in rulemaking on Title IX.”

Last year, the Montana Legislature passed the Save Women’s Sports Act, which requires interscholastic athletes to participate under sex assigned at birth. The U.S. Department of Education’s intended rulemaking would “undoubtedly” conflict with this state law.

“One of Title IX’s crucial purposes, for example, is protecting athletic opportunity for women and girls. Adding gender identity to the definition of ‘sex’ in Title IX would have a detrimental effect on the great strides made over the last 50 years to create equal athletic opportunity,” Knudsen and the attorneys general wrote. “Several of our states have enacted legislation to protect athletic opportunities for women by prohibiting biological males from competing in female athletics. Those laws would undoubtedly conflict with the Department’s intended rulemaking. We are prepared to take legal action to uphold Title IX’s plain meaning and safeguard the integrity of women’s sports.”

The current Title IX rules also guarantee victims of sexual harassment and accused students clear procedural rights and provide protections for victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The current rule fixed problems that were created under President Obama’s Education Department and provides a better, more reliable system for victims and accused students.

Hundreds of successful lawsuits against schools for denying basic due process and widespread criticism from across the ideological spectrum arose from the Obama-era rules that “quite literally resembled Kafka’s The Trial.” The rules also resulted in a disproportionate number of expulsions and scholarship losses for Black male students.

Education policy experts, civil rights leaders, public interest attorneys, women’s groups, and parent advocates have also asked the Department of Education to disband its efforts to weaken Title IX rules.

Attorneys general from the following states joined Knudsen’s effort: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.

Click here to read the letter in full.

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