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Protecting Title IX from the Biden Administration

Protecting Title IX from the Biden Administration

By Governor Pete Ricketts

September 6, 2022

 

Governor’s official photo here.

 

Fifty years ago, women’s volleyball wasn’t even a varsity sport at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).  Fast forward a half century, and Nebraska volleyball is must-see entertainment.  Matches at the Devaney Center are standing room only.  The Huskers again led the nation in home attendance last year with crowds averaging over 8,200 per match.  And their national championship match against Wisconsin in December broke collegiate volleyball records for both in-person attendance (18,755) and TV viewership (nearly 1.2 million).

 

The huge popularity and success of Husker volleyball wouldn’t have been possible without Title IX.  Part of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, paving the way for women to have opportunities on par with men—in athletics and many other arenas.  Motivated by Title IX, UNL made volleyball a varsity sport in 1975.  Title IX has made a lifechanging impact in countless women’s lives over the past 50 years.  

 

Now, the future of Title IX is in jeopardy.  The Biden Administration is working to overhaul its meaning.  His first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order, supposedly to combat “sex discrimination.”  However, that’s not what the order does.  Instead, it radically reinterprets Title IX and redefines “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 

 

We're seeing the Biden Administration move forward with its changes to Title IX in various federal agencies, including at the Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In May, the USDA announced they would adopt these changes to Title IX.  Any school that chooses not to comply risks losing federal food aid – including the school lunch program.  This is food security blackmail that puts children in the crosshairs.  But the Administration didn’t stop there.  Not long after, on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Department of Education (DOEd) reiterated its intent to apply the Biden executive order’s changes throughout our schools and colleges.

 

DOEd’s change poses a direct threat to the intent of Title IX in several ways.

 

For starters, the new definitions of discrimination go beyond the basic biological definition of sex and pose a risk to the integrity of women’s sports.  Gender is now claimed to be “an internal sex identity” (gender identity).  But there is not a single medical test to determine a person’s “internal sex identity,” because that struggle exists in the mind, not in the body.  What we do know is that sex is biologically determined at conception.

 

We certainly need to support all students.  The teen years are a particularly difficult time for children, especially those who are experiencing gender dysphoria or gender incongruence.  We need to recognize the increased risks these children face.  However, we can be supportive and sympathetic and still recognize the biological differences between boys and girls, men and women. 

 

The Biden Administration’s change to Title IX discriminates against women—in direct contradiction to the original intent of the landmark law.  This policy will ultimately require allowing boys who identify as female to compete against biological females in sports and for athletic scholarships.  As we see in the case of UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas, once a middling male athlete and now a record-breaker in women’s sports, it threatens to displace hardworking biological female athletes and undermines the very intent of Title IX.

 

This factor alone is cause for concern.  But these changes also introduce other far-reaching implications.  For example, the changes to Title IX would require administrators, students, educators, and staff to stifle their free speech and deeply held convictions about sex and gender or risk punishment for “sex discrimination.”  It would force schools to choose between vital federal funding and going along with a divisive political agenda – one that tramples the rights of those who adhere to basic biological facts about sex.

 

As a parent, I am also concerned with the implications this change would have on parents’ rights.  Research shows that the majority of gender incongruent youth will outgrow that confusion by adulthood.  What happens when parents are no longer allowed to help their child through challenging, and often difficult, times?  There is no consensus on the best way to treat trans identified youth in the medical community.  Forcing schools to pretend there is clear consensus, and using that to go against the will of a parent, is wrong.

 

The Administration’s changes will also weaken local control of education by empowering federal agencies to punish teachers and schools who believe in the original intent of Title IX.  These discussions should be handled at the state and local level.  Federal efforts to dictate how schools respond to the transgender issue is blatant overreach.  States have a right to determine how their schools operate.  This top-down mandate will prevent states from developing innovative solutions and customized policies that best fit the children, families, and communities they serve.  

 

We’ve seen how efforts to inject politically divisive content in schools play out in Nebraska.  In February 2021, our State Department of Education—which is governed by an independently elected board that does not report to me—proposed new “health standards.”  The standards were completely politicized and age-inappropriate.  I held townhalls across Nebraska to rally opposition to the standards.  Thousands of Nebraskans wrote in, attended meetings, and called their State Board of Education members to oppose the standards.  As a direct result of this engagement, the State Board of Education indefinitely postponed them.

 

Once again, I’m calling for concerned Nebraskans to take action.  We need to guard against the Biden Administration’s attempt to twist the meaning of Title IX.  They are collecting input on the DOEd’s rule change through September 12th.  I am preparing to comment, and I urge Nebraskans to weigh in as well.  Go to www.regulations.gov/document/ED-2021-OCR-0166-0001 to comment.

 

If you have any questions about my administration’s stance on Title IX, please contact me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244.