College Consortium: The 50th Anniversary of Title IX

Jul 13th, 2022

By Rebecca Berkowitz, School Policy Senior Attorney

On June 23, 1972, Congress passed the landmark civil rights law known as Title IX  prohibiting discrimination based on sex at educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance. On June 23, 2022, exactly 50 years later, President Biden’s Department of Education released proposed changes to the regulations that implement Title IX. These long-awaited changes will strengthen protections for student sexual assault survivors.

Although Title IX has been settled law for decades, its regulations have been in a state of flux for years. In 2018, then Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed radical and harmful changes to the regulations that implement Title IX. The DeVos regulations, sometimes called the “Trump Title IX Rule,” dramatically reduced school-based protections for survivors. After a lengthy formal rulemaking process, the regulations were finalized in May of 2020 and went into effect in August 2020, leaving school administrations just one summer to scramble to update their Title IX policies, in the midst of a global pandemic.

For almost two years, students, from kindergarteners to PhD candidates, have been subjected to lengthy and retraumatizing adjudication processes under the Trump Rule.

The Biden administration seeks to undo the harms put into place by the Trump Rule. The proposed changes to Title IX, which are now subject to another formal rulemaking process, will restore or even strengthen protections for students who experience sexual harassment, including sexual assault. If finalized, we expect the new regulations to:

  • Expand the definition of Title IX sexual harassment to include hostile environment harassment, regardless of where the underlying conduct occurred;
  • Clarify that sex discrimination under Title IX includes discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation; and
  • Do away with the requirement that college students be subjected to cross examination at a live hearing.

The full proposal is available here. Public comment will be open until September 12th, 2022. While the regulations themselves are good news, we do not know how long it will take for the Department of Education to finalize and implement the changes after receiving comments. Unfortunately, it is likely that students are looking at another school year under the Trump Rule.

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