The U.S. Department of Education has pushed back by five months — until October — its planned May release of both the final Title IX athletics and the broader Title IX rules. The change comes in light of the high volume of feedback received during the comment periods for the proposed rules.
"Carefully considering and reviewing these comments takes time, and is essential to ensuring the final rule is enduring," the department said in an online update on Friday.
The broader Title IX rule — which would for the first time protect LGBTQ+ students under the federal anti-sex discrimination law — garnered more than 240,000 comments. That's nearly twice as many comments as the department received on its last Title IX proposed regulation under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, according to the agency.
Additionally, the athletics proposal just released in April received more than 154,000 in its short one-month comment period that ended earlier this month. Although that proposal would prohibit blanket bans of transgender students in athletics, it would allow schools to exclude transgender students from playing on sports teams aligning with their gender identities under some circumstances.
In total, the Education Department will sift through more than 394,000 comments as it develops its two final rules for Title IX.
The new release date changes timelines for districts that were anticipating a potential fall implementation date for either or both of the new rules. That implementation time frame would have mirrored the Title IX timeline under the last administration, which required districts to comply by August 2022 after releasing a final rule in May of that year.
BIG BIG news! ED announces they will not be issuing a finalized Title IX reg until October at the earliest. This is a consequential update as many districts were anticipating having to comply with the full rule (including the recent athletics NPRM) beginning this summer.— Sasha Pudelski (@SPudelski) May 26, 2023
Once finalized, both of the current proposals are expected to be heavily litigated, and there has been speculation the department chose to issue the rules separately in anticipation of that.
Republican lawmakers and organizations have already expressed their disappointment with both draft rules.
Last year, prior to the summer release of the broader Title IX proposed rule, 15 Republican attorneys general warned the department to stick to the current regulation issued by DeVos, saying they were prepared to challenge the Biden administration's changes in court.
Meanwhile, in feedback on the separate athletics rule, Republican representatives on the Committee on Education and the Workforce criticized the proposal, saying it would discriminate against students who are not transgender.