The Biden administration is moving to expand Title IX protections. Here’s what California says

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US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks in the East Room of the White House in April. (Susan Walsh/The AU Times)

The Biden administration’s new Title IX proposals to affirm sex discrimination protections for transgender and other students would not materially change existing policies at California universities and colleges, officials who were assessing Thursday said. the potential impact on the state.

California campuses already prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. And some of the proposed changes to Title IX sexual misconduct review processes are already in place in California under a 2019 state appeals court ruling, regardless of federal regulatory revisions. .

“It’s unclear whether this will really be a sea change,” said Kiersten Boyce, associate vice chancellor of UC Riverside and acting Title IX officer.

The Biden administration unveiled the proposed changes Thursday, the 50th anniversary of Title IX — the landmark federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding. They aim in part to overturn some controversial rules issued under the Trump administration by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and come amid a conservative push to ban transgender athletes from playing sports and restrict bathroom use at the a person’s sex assigned at birth.

The proposed revisions clarify that the Title IX prohibition of sex discrimination extends to sexual orientation and gender identity. This direction was announced by the Obama administration in 2016, then canceled by the Trump team, which left the question to the states. The Biden administration first said it would revert to Obama’s guidelines last year, after the US Supreme Court ruled that federal bans on ‘gender’ bias must also include sexual orientation and gender identity.

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The most burning question — how to deal with student eligibility to compete on men’s or women’s track and field teams — was not included in the Title IX proposal released Thursday. The US Department of Education said it will release a separate proposal in the future.

The University of California, California State University and other public colleges and schools never removed protections for transgender students during the Trump administration. The UC Non-Discrimination Statement, for example, prohibits bias based on “race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, disability, age, medical condition (related to cancer), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, gender identity, orientation or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran .

“UC has remained true to its commitment to fair and inclusive treatment for all members of our community, including transgender and non-binary people, despite positions taken by the previous administration,” UC said in a statement. communicated.

UC also found ways to address sexual misconduct complaints that did not meet the Trump administration’s stricter Title IX rules. Under DeVos, sexual harassment had to be both “severe and pervasive” to qualify for Title IX protection, rather than one or the other, as previous federal rules allowed. UC dealt with complaints that did not reach the upper bar through alternative processes based on violations of other campus policies, such as student or faculty codes of conduct, Boyce said.

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“The new regulations proposed by the Biden administration would not affect the current state of the law in California, which requires due process in student discipline,” said Mark Hathaway, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented more of 200 students and professors for misconduct. cases, most involving sexual misconduct.

While current Title IX policies at CSU’s 23 campuses and California’s 116 community colleges also protect transgender students, both systems are reviewing the proposal for any possible effects on other regulations.

Title IX was not foolproof. At CSU — the nation’s largest four-year public university — recent Times investigations have revealed discrepancies in how Title IX and sexual harassment cases involving faculty and students are handled. Interpretation of the law is often subjective, experts said, and investigative procedures and timelines may vary as campuses deal with increasing numbers of cases. It’s unclear how, or if, the new proposal would better streamline practices.

Some of the Trump administration’s most sweeping changes — the right to a hearing and the ability to cross-examine — were already being used in California under a 2019 state appeals court ruling. The court ordered campuses to enact these due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct out of “fundamental fairness.” The court also said the same person investigating the complaints also cannot determine whether they are credible — a “single investigator model” used by UC and other campuses at the time — because that “misplaces in an individual the overlapping and inconsistent roles of investigator, prosecutor, investigator and judge”.

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Biden’s proposed settlement would not require cross-examination, although a university could allow it if it wishes. Nor would they need a live hearing to assess evidence or different people to investigate a complaint and determine its credibility. But those practices, ordered by the appeals court, should remain on California campuses, college officials said.

UC Riverside’s Boyce said she was still evaluating the 701-page Title IX proposal. She said she’s excited to see if it offers new tools to tackle sexual assault, better protect transgender students, fight retaliation against those who file complaints, and support pregnant students and staff.

President Biden’s education secretary, Miguel Cardona, said Title IX has been “instrumental” in addressing sexual assault and violence in education.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue this progress and ensure that all students in our country – no matter where they live, who they are or who they love – can learn, grow and thrive in school,” he says.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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