Department of Education Wants to Hear from Students, Parents, Educators, and Professionals About Rules Impacting LGBTQ Students and Survivors of Sexual Violence

by Sarah Warbelow

This week, from Monday June 7th through Friday June 11th, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is hosting virtual public hearings to learn more about the enforcement of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by federally funded education programs including public schools and virtually all colleges and universities. Specifically, OCR is seeking to hear about how the Department can better address sexual harassment, including sexual assault, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Written comments are being accepted from the public through Friday June 11th at 5pm Eastern. The comments will help to inform future changes to the Title IX regulations and other Department actions. This is an excellent opportunity for students, parents, educators, and education related professionals -- as well as advocates -- to share their experiences and observations on these two very important topics.

Join HRC in sharing your comments on what changing these regulations to be more inclusive means to you and the LGBTQ people in your life.

On President Biden’s first day in office, he issued an executive order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. This executive order implements the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County finding that federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Subsequently, on March 8, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free From Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. These two executive orders have paved the way for OCR to ensure that complaints from LGBTQ students about their experiences of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity accepted and investigated seriously. In addition, the orders require OCR to assess what changes will be necessary to fully protect LBGTQ students from discrimination and effectively provide the guidance schools need to understand their obligations under the law.

In May 2020, the Trump Administration finalized changes to the Title IX regulations that attempted to limited federally funded educational institutions’ obligation to address sexual harassment and assault, and eliminated the regulatory requirement that religious schools notify the Department of Education of their intent to avail themselves of the religious exemption under Title IX. Instead of trying to protect students from harassment and discrimination, the revised rule makes it harder for students to report their experiences, and undermines protections and recourse for survivors of sexual harassment and violence.

LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and harassment, and the stigma that many LGBTQ people face can make it more difficult for survivors to report. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey of high school students, lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their straight counterparts. In addition, a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 60 percent of gay and lesbian students and nearly 70 percent of bisexual students report being sexually harassed on campus.

All students deserve an educational experience free of discrimination including anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault. ORC has the responsibility and obligation to correct the wrongs of the previous administration and fully implement the Bostock decision.