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Title IX protection extended to transgender students amid surge of legislation attacking their rights

Title IX
CBS Reports presents "Speaking Frankly: Title IX" 23:05

The Department of Education announced Wednesday that transgender students are now protected under Title IX. The federal civil rights law, passed in 1972, protects people from discrimination based on sex, and now, gender identity and sexual orientation, in any educational setting that receives federal aid. 

"The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination — and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. "Today, the Department makes clear that all students — including LGBTQ+ students — deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination."

The announcement comes amid a difficult year for LGBTQ+ youth. A recent survey from The Trevor Project found that of the nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 who responded to the survey, 70% said that over the past year, their mental health was "poor" at least most of the time. More than half of transgender or nonbinary youth reported they seriously considered attempting suicide, the survey found. 

Trevor Project CEO and Executive Director Amit Paley said in a statement that the organization is grateful to the department for "actively working to ensure that schools are safe and affirming spaces for transgender and nonbinary youth."

"We know that trans-affirming schools can be life-saving," he said. "Young people spend most of their time at school and it's crucial that all students are protected from discrimination and afforded the same rights." 

The protections also come during a year in which states have pushed for and passed a surge of bills that seek to limit the rights of transgender youth. 

In the 2021 legislative session alone, 23 states have considered more than 50 bills targeting transgender youth, according to a list maintained by the National Center for Transgender Equality. The majority of those bills, according to the Center, limit either the health care transgender youth can receive or limit their ability to participate in school sports. 

The announcement signals the Biden administration's effort to reverse the myriad policies targeting transgender individuals that were implemented under the Trump administration. In 2017, for example, the administration reversed policies that required public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender. 

Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne B. Goldberg said in a statement that the department wants to provide schools with support so that all students can get adequate resources and the tools they need to succeed, "regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation." 

"Equity in education means all students have access to schools that allow them to learn and thrive in all aspects of their educational experience," Goldberg said. "As part of our mission to protect all students' civil rights, it is essential that OCR acts to eliminate discrimination that targets LGBTQ+ students."

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