When Joe Biden campaigned for the presidency in 2020, he vowed to take significant actions to strengthen Title IX, a federal gender-equity law governing sex discrimination at federally funded educational institutions.
This law also guides how these institutions handle reports of sexual misconduct.
Biden pledged to swiftly reverse changes made to Title IX by the Trump administration, which had narrowed the definition of sexual harassment and implemented new measures to safeguard the due process rights of accused students, among other alterations.
Biden promised to reinstate the 2011 guidance instructing schools to investigate and address all student reports of sexual misconduct.
However, more than two and a half years into Biden’s presidency, advocates for survivors of sexual violence, along with other students, are still awaiting the fulfillment of these presidential promises.
Andrew Davis, a graduate student at Brown University and one of the organizers from Know Your IX (a project of Advocates for Youth), expressed frustration: “Promises were made, and promises have been broken repeatedly.”
Davis and other student organizers recently met with officials at the Education Department to discuss their concerns and frustrations about the process of issuing new Title IX regulations.
Despite this meeting, they still lack clarity on when the new rules will be released.
They are concerned that the Trump-era regulations may remain in effect for at least another academic year as the Biden administration navigates the regulatory process to finalize new Title IX regulations.
Biden administration faces delays in issuing final rules
The Trump administration had rescinded guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011 and implemented new regulations in May 2020.
These new rules introduced stricter procedures for handling cases of sexual harassment and allowed for live hearings with cross-examination, granting the accused the right to confront their accusers.
In response, the Biden administration proposed new Title IX rules that aimed to undo most of the Trump-era regulations and find a balance between the rights of survivors and the accused.
While the Biden administration’s final rules were initially expected in May, they were postponed until October due to the need to review and respond to nearly 250,000 public comments on the draft rule.
Advocates hope the department can meet its October deadline but recognize the challenge this poses for an understaffed and underfunded agency.
If Congress fails to reach a budget agreement by September 30, resulting in a government shutdown, this could further delay the release of the final rule.
Advocates are urging the Department of Education to consider essential workers’ classification to ensure progress on this critical issue.
The Biden administration has also proposed updating Title IX to prohibit blanket bans that exclude transgender students from participating in sports teams aligning with their gender identity.
This rule has received over 156,000 comments. As of now, neither rule has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review.
In the meantime, as delays persist, advocates like Emma Grasso Levine, manager of Know Your IX, are calling for interim solutions such as guidance for institutions on Title IX compliance, support for students, and additional guidance for LGBTQ+ students at religious institutions.
These measures are seen as crucial given the challenges presented by the Trump administration’s rules regarding the investigative process in cases of sexual misconduct.