The education department’s Title IX rules state that schools that receive federal funding may not ban biological males in girls sports wholesale, but they may exclude them on a case by case basis.
“The proposed rule … recognizes that in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation,” the education department said.
However, the proposal would give schools “the flexibility to develop their own participation policies,” the department added.
“Sex-related criteria” at schools that would limit or ban a trans-identified student from playing on the team of their preferred gender must meet two standards. First, the criteria must be related to an “important educational objective,” and second, the criteria must also “minimize harms” to the trans-identified student.
Preventing sports-related injuries would be an example of an “important educational objective” the department noted.
High school girls have been injured playing with trans-identifying males. Last year in North Carolina, a female high school volleyball player suffered severe trauma to her head and neck after a trans-identifying player spiked a volleyball at her head.
Another example of an “important educational objective” would be “fairness in competition.”
“Fairness in competition may be particularly important for recipients in some sports, grade and education levels, and levels of competition,” the department said.
Female athletes at high schools and colleges in several states have spoken out against being forced to compete against biological males.
In Connecticut, several high school girls filed Title IX claims in a federal lawsuit in 2020, arguing that competing against trans-identifying males made them miss their chances at championship titles, state records, and scholarship opportunities.
Parental rights advocates slammed the proposed regulations as too vague, saying the rules will scare off schools from trying to enforce any limits on males in girls sports.
“The Biden Administration is trying to have their cake and eat it too: inject gender identity into athletics while placing the onus upon school districts to determine whether doing so would be problematic or not,” said Nicole Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education.
“Without a doubt, institutions are going to err on the side of ‘inclusion,’ because they fear the wrath of the Education Department – thus, achieving the Department’s end goal while allowing them to maintain plausible deniability that they coerced districts into doing so,” Neily said.
Erika Sanzi, the group’s director of outreach, called the administration a “gender czar,” saying they are “putting school districts in an impossible position.”
Transgender activists, meanwhile, reacted with concern that the rule gives too much leeway to schools that are looking to ban trans-identifying males from competing with girls.
The proposal will now be subject to public comment, during which it is almost guaranteed to face challenges from critics.
If approved, the rules would apply to all public K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities that receive federal funding.