Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information since it was first posted as a breaking news story.
LGBTQ and pregnant students, as well as pregnant employees, would for the first time be protected under Title IX regulations, the U.S. Department of Education announced in releasing its much-awaited Title IX proposed rules on Thursday morning.
However, the Ed Department said it will launch a separate rulemaking process to address transgender students' involvement in athletic teams. The timeline for that is yet to be announced.
The regulations, which were first expected to be released in May, come after more than a year of review by President Joe Biden's administration and on the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
"It's the Department of Education's responsibility to ensure all our students can learn, grow and thrive in school no matter where they live, who they are, whom they love, or how they identify," said Miguel Cardona, U.S. secretary of education in a news briefing announcing the regulations. "This is personal to me."
While the proposed regulations do include notable changes from former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' iteration, they also keep certain measures in place, such as not requiring live hearings and covering incidents that occur during events off-campus but under the school's operation, like school field trips, under Title IX.
The new regulations also add to the definition of sexual harassment, which was expanded in 2020 to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.
The new regulations additionally define sex-based harassment as including harassment based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy and related conditions, gender identity and sexual orientation.
However, some said in 2020 that that definition left out instances where students are verbally harassed or threatened. These new proposed regulations would not include explicit protections for those scenarios, but say that there may be circumstances where unwelcome conduct like repeated requests for dates in an intimidating or threatening manner may be considered stalking.
The new regulations also would expand conditions under which Title IX is applied. Regulations put in place by DeVos prohibited sex-based conduct only if it is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”
The proposed regulations would cover harassment that is "sufficiently severe or pervasive … based on the totality of the circumstances and evaluated subjectively and objectively," rather than only objectively.
Additional changes under the new regulations include:
Who can file complaints: Under current regulations, sex discrimination complaints, excluding harassment, can only be made by students or employees, and not by third parties. The proposed regulations would allow third parties — like prospective students, visiting student athletes or guest speakers — to file complaints for sex-based discrimination.
Definition of a complaint: The 2020 regulations defined a formal complaint as a document or electronic submission alleging sexual harassment that must include the complainant's signature or other indication of the complainants' identity. The new Title IX proposals replaces the "formal complaint" definition with the more broadly defined "complaint" to include an oral request to initiate Title IX procedures for sex discrimination. They would also no longer require the complainant's physical or digital signature, or otherwise indicate that the complainant is the person filing the formal complaint.
Informal resolution process: Regulations under DeVos required a complaint before a recipient could offer an informal resolution process. Under the proposed rules, schools can offer and initiate an informal resolution process without a complaint. Schools could decline to offer informal resolutions.
Who triggers Title IX response: Current regulations require schools to respond to TItle IX allegations when any school employee has been notified. The draft regulations slightly narrow that pool of staff to exclude confidential employees, which could include employees like school nurses or psychologists. Such staff would have to explain their status as confidential employees and provide the prospective complainant with information about the Title IX coordinator and how to report their allegations.
Protections for pregnant students and employees: Old regulations did not include specific protections for pregnant individuals. The new proposals would require school districts to provide spaces other than bathrooms for students and employees who are breastfeeding. They also would offer protections for students and employees with medical conditions related to, or who are recovering from, termination of pregnancy.
This marks the second time in two administrations that Title IX regulations would change. The Biden administration proposals come with a two-month comment period, after which the Department of Education is to release final rules. DeVos' draft rule garnered over 120,000 comments and was made final after nearly two years in 2020.