WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Education Department on Wednesday expanded its interpretation of federal sex protections to include transgender and gay students.
The move reverses Trump-era policy and stands against proposals in many states to bar transgender girls from school sports.
In a policy directive, the department said discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity will be treated as a violation of federal sex discrimination law.
The decision is based on last year’s Supreme Court ruling protecting gay, lesbian, and transgender people from discrimination in employment.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said students “have the same rights and deserve the same protections” as workers.
“I'm proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination," said Cardona 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."
LGBTQ+ students often face additional challenges in schools, like being disproportionally bullied, harassed, and victimized. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights found those issues were only worsened by the pandemic.
"The Department of Education strives to provide schools with the support they need to create learning environments that enable all students 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," said Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne B. Goldberg. "As part of our mission to protect all students' civil rights, it is essential that OCR acts to eliminate discrimination that targets LGBTQ+ students."