Today, the Department of Education (DOE) announced that Title IX does protect students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a significant step forward in defending the rights of transgender and non-binary youth in schools. The DOE will use this interpretation of Title IX when processing complaints from students and conducting investigations related to discrimination in educational institutions.

“We applaud the Department of Education for taking a strong stance to affirm the protections that already exist for trans and non-binary students under Title IX,” said Geoffrey Winder, Co-Executive Director of GSA Network. “This past March, we asked the new DOE Secretary, Miguel Cardona, to Show Up for Trans Youth Now. We are encouraged by this recent announcement and feel hopeful that students will again feel empowered and supported to speak out when their rights under Title IX are infringed upon in their schools.”

Today’s announcement from the current DOE represents a return toward Obama-era guidance and is a sharp rebuke of guidance from the previous administration, which stated that Title IX did not apply to discrimination based on gender identity. In 2018, the former DOE Secretary, Betsy DeVos, went on to officially declared that the agency would no longer hear or investigate complaints from transgender and non-binary students related to access to school facilities–such as bathrooms locker rooms–and that those should be handled at the school district level. Three years later, we now see how state legislatures across the United States built upon that polarizing momentum to introduce and pass bills specifically attacking trans students while they had no federal protection. This serves as an undeniable reminder that agencies like the DOE can profoundly influence mainstream narratives and political discourse.

“More than half of the country has already passed or will be voting on bills this fall that aim to limit access to healthcare and school athletics for transgender students,” said Juniperangélica Gia Cordova, Associate Director of Gender Justice Leadership Programs, a collaborative project between Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network and Transgender Law Center. “While we continue to fight against these legislative attacks and build back a system of support for the most marginalized students in the educational system, we must continue to ensure that local schools on the ground are in compliance with federal guidance under Title IX and that all educational institutions provide safe and supportive environments for trans and non-binary students.”

Earlier this month, Gender Justice Leadership Programs released No Pride Without Trans Youth, a community report that will uplift the voices of transgender and non-binary young people and highlight the impact that the anti-trans bills have had on them.

Read the DOE’s full Notice of Interpretation regarding enforcement of Title IX

Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network) is a next-generation LGBTQ racial and gender justice organization that empowers and trains trans, queer, and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities. In California, GSA Network connects over 1,000 GSA clubs through regional summits and youth councils. Nationally, GSA Network leads the National Association of GSA Networks which unites 40 statewide networks of GSA clubs, and GSAs Unite, an online campaign and petition platform supporting youth organizers across the country.