On Thursday April 6th, 2023, Secretary Miguel Cardona of the Department of Education announced a proposed rule that would update Title IX to clarify guidelines for participation in school athletics. Title IX aims to protect students in schools that receive federal funding from sex-based discrimination and ensure fairness, and this rule aims to expand upon this. Secretary Cardona stated that “Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination.”

The proposed rule prevents schools and athletics programs from implementing categorical, one-size-fits all bans against transgender students that prevent them from participating in activities that reflect their gender identity. However, it still grants schools some flexibility based on age, the nature of the sport, and the level of competition. As a result, transgender youth in elementary school may face fewer barriers to playing recreational sports than in more competitive teams in high school or college. The rule recognizes that preventing transgender students from participating in athletics has a stigmatizing effect and encourages schools to offer recreational and intramural opportunities in the event that they are not able to participate at the competitive level.

While there have been criticisms made by both Republicans and Democrats, many also agree that the rule will provide states with much needed guidance. Ranking Member Bobby Scott [D-VA] of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce commended the announcement: “School sports offer invaluable life lessons—from leadership to teamwork—that every child in America should be able to access and enjoy. To that end, the proposed rule ensures that school sports are, above all, fair and safe for our nation’s children.” The announcement is timely as lawmakers in Kansas passed a statewide ban for transgender athletes after overriding the governor’s veto within the same week, joining 19 other states that have implemented similar bans. The Supreme Court also blocked West Viriginia’s request to fully enforce its transgender sports ban on the same day.

There is a 30-day public comment period posted on the Federal Register. The deadline for submitting comments is May 15th on the Federal Register.

By Ava Cloghessy, Policy Intern