The U.S. Department of Education’s controversial proposed Title IX athletics rule has garnered more than 154,000 comments — with over 18,000 comments received in just the past week before the one-month comment period ended on Monday.
The rule, which was proposed separately from the Biden administration’s broader Title IX proposed rule, would allow schools to exclude transgender students from playing on sports teams aligning with their gender identities under some circumstances. However, the rule would prohibit blanket bans of transgender students in athletics.
When the rule came out in April, legal experts predicted the proposed criteria would get pushback from both ends of the political spectrum.
On one hand, organizations such as GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusivity in K-12, said they hoped the final rule is inclusive of all transgender, nonbinary and intersex students.
On the other hand, conservative leaders and organizations criticized the proposal for potentially including any transgender students at all. These groups worry that such an outcome would harm girl athletes who aren't transgender.
"By trying to straddle both of these — and I think legitimate — concerns, they've made no one happy, I think," said Nina Gupta, a partner at law firm Parker Poe who routinely counsels school districts on Title IX matters., last month when the proposal was released. "So they will get sued by everybody, rather than [if they had gone] hard one way or the other."
As predicted, the controversial proposal has been met with mixed feedback in the comments submitted to the Education Department.
"The proposed rule will force women’s sports to accept the participation of men, cruelly using a groundbreaking antidiscrimination statute to discriminate against the very people it was designed to protect," said 18 leading GOP representatives on the Committee on Education and the Workforce in a letter sent to the department on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Our Shared Future, a nonpartisan group that advocates for access and conclusion, requested additional guidance and examples that it said are necessary to enforce the plan.
"If properly interpreted and robustly enforced, the proposed rule represents a significant and important step towards ensuring equal educational opportunity by severely limiting restrictions on participation in school sports consistent with gender identity," said Executive Director Heather Harding.
Similarly, the Association of Title IX Administrators said in its comments that it is also seeking clarifications from the department, including how the rule would apply to middle school students.
"ED fashioned a proposed rule that requires careful drafting and evidentiary support," the administrators said in their feedback. "Recipients determined to exclude transgender athletes may spend significant time crafting policies to do so."
The department will now review the comments on its athletics proposal and release the final rule, which is expected to be finalized alongside the broader Title IX final rule sometime this month. That rule received over 210,000 comments.
Both rules are expected to face heavy scrutiny and litigation by those opposed to the administration's interpretation of how Title IX applies to LGBTQ+ youth.