Biden administration proposes new rules to protect LGBTQ+ students under Title IX

LGBTQ rights supporters gather at the Texas State Capitol to protest state Republican-led efforts to pass legislation that would restrict the participation of transgender student athletes.
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The rights of LGBTQ students would become enshrined in federal law and victims of campus sexual assault would gain new protections under rules proposed by the Biden administration on Thursday.

The proposal, announced on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX women’s rights law, is intended to replace a set of controversial rules issued during the Trump administration by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

President Joe Biden’s education secretary, Miguel Cardona, said that even though there have been significant strides toward gender equality, discrimination and sexual violence persist.

“Even as we celebrate all the progress we’ve achieved, standing up for equal access and inclusion is as important as ever before,” he said.

The proposal is almost certain to be challenged by conservatives, and it is expected to lead to new legal battles over the rights of transgender students in schools, especially in sports. It now faces a public feedback period before the administration can finalize any changes, meaning the earliest the policy is likely to take effect is next year.

The step meets a demand from victims rights advocates who wanted Biden to release new rules no later than the anniversary of Title IX, which outlaws discrimination based on sex in schools and colleges. Advocates say DeVos’ rules have gone too far in protecting students accused of sexual misconduct, at the expense of victims.

As a presidential candidate, Biden had promised a quick end to DeVos’ rules, saying they would “shame and silence survivors.”

In announcing its proposal, Biden’s Education Department said DeVos’ rules “weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination.”

For the first time, the rules would formally protect LGBTQ students under Title IX. Nothing in the 1972 law explicitly addresses the topic, but the new proposal would clarify that the law applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It would make clear that “preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX,” according to the department. More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later, the department said.

Biden marked the anniversary of Title IX by acknowledging the impact the law has had in advancing equity but acknowledging there was more to do.

“As we look to the next 50 years, I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans,” he said in a statement.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Title IX is 50 years old. Why aren’t schools complying with the law?

Many of the proposed changes would restore Obama-era rules that DeVos’ policy replaced.

The definition of sexual harassment would be expanded to cover a wider range of misconduct. Schools would be required to address any allegation that creates a “hostile environment” for students, even if the misconduct arises off campus. Most college employees, including professors and coaches, would be required to notify campus officials if they learn of potential sex discrimination.

In a victory for victims rights advocates, the proposal would eliminate a rule requiring colleges to hold live hearings to investigate sexual misconduct cases — one of the most divisive aspects of DeVos’ policy. Live hearings would be allowed under the new rules, but colleges could also appoint campus officials to question students separately.

Biden’s action drew praise from victims rights groups, LGBTQ advocates and Democratic lawmakers.

“These proposed regulations demonstrate a strong commitment to protecting educational opportunities for all students including LGBTQ students,” said Janson Wu executive director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. “Especially in light of ongoing state legislative attacks, we are grateful for the administration’s strong support of LGBTQ youth.”

Republicans in Congress were quick to denounce the proposal. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said the rules will “demolish due process rights and the safety of young women and girls across the country, with promised regulations still to come to undermine women’s access to athletic opportunities.”

In a letter to Cardona on Thursday, attorneys general in 18 Republican-led states pushed against protections for transgender students, saying it would “destroy women’s sports.” The group, led by Montana and Indiana, vowed to fight the changes “with every available tool in our arsenal.”

“American women and girls deserve better,” the attorneys general wrote. “And if this Administration won’t commit to protecting women’s rights under Title IX, rest assured, we will.”

If the proposal is finalized, it would mark the second rewrite of federal Title IX rules in two years. DeVos’ rules were themselves intended to reverse Obama-era guidance. The Obama policy was embraced by victims advocates but led to hundreds of lawsuits from accused students who said their colleges failed to give them a fair process to defend themselves.

The whiplash has left many schools scrambling to adopt ever-changing rules. Some have pressed for a political middle ground that will protect students without prompting new rules every time the White House changes power.

“It doesn’t serve anybody’s interest to have this ping-pong effect of changing rules every five years,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus security consultant and president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses. “That’s just not a good way to get things done. It’s very difficult for everyone involved.”

DeVos’ rules dramatically reshaped the way colleges handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, with an emphasis on ensuring the constitutional due process rights of the accused.

Under her rules, accused students were given wider rights to review and respond to evidence against them, and students had the right to cross-examine one another through a representative at live hearings.

The live hearing requirement was applauded as a victory for accused students, but it drew intense backlash from other advocates who said it forced victims to relive their trauma.

DeVos also reduced colleges’ obligations in responding to complaints. Her policy narrowed the definition of harassment and scaled back the types of cases colleges are required to address. As a result, some campuses have seen steep decreases in the number of Title IX complaints coming in from students.

Under her rules, for example, colleges are not required to investigate most complaints that arise off campus, and they do not have to act on any complaint unless the alleged misconduct is “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.”

The overhaul was partly meant to lighten the burden on colleges as they mediate complex cases, but some say it ultimately added more work.

Leaders of some colleges have said the DeVos rules are too prescriptive and force them to turn campus discipline systems into miniature courtrooms. Many schools have continued to address all sexual misconduct complaints even if they do not meet the narrowed harassment definition, but they have had to set up separate discipline processes to handle those cases.

Advocates on both sides say that can be confusing for students.

“It shouldn’t be that way. It should be, if anything, more uniform — that’s the whole reason the Title IX regulations were put into place,” said Kimberly Lau, a New York lawyer who represents students in Title IX cases.

Biden’s proposal is a major step in keeping his promise to reverse DeVos’ rules. He started the process last year when he ordered the Education Department to review the rules, but the agency has been bogged down by a slow-moving rule-making process.

RELATED: Nine (or so) to know on the 50th anniversary of Title IX

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.