Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education: ‘LGBTQ+ students deserve the opportunity to learn … free from discrimination.’ (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Title IX was created to protect students from harassment or discrimination. Until June 16, whether Title IX extended to LGBTQ individuals was up for debate. The United States Department of Education, specifically their Office for Civil Rights, took it upon themselves to issue a Notice of Interpretation. This notice stated, in no uncertain terms, that there may be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity aimed at any students. 

Lesbian, gay and transgender students often face challenges during education their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts aren’t forced to deal with. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly had a negative impact on LGBTQ youth. The U.S. Department of Education’s official press release references the 2021 Trevor Project Survey, which found that 78 percent of gender-expansive youths’ mental health was heavily impacted by the lack of school-based counseling during the pandemic. 

“Our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections,” says Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education. “[We] have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination. Today, the Department makes clear that all students, including LGBTQ+ students, deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination.”

The fact that Title IX encompasses members of the LGBTQ community means that neither staff nor students can discriminate against individuals for their gender identity or sexual orientation.  

Penalties for violating Title IX include withdrawal of federal funds, fines and expulsion; depending on the position that the offender holds within the institution. According to the Trevor Project report, only 50 percent of LGBTQ youth felt as if school provided affirming spaces for them. Of the transgender and nonbinary students who attempted suicide in the past year, 23 percent of them shared that they did not feel safe at school. 

Says Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg: “The Department of Education strives to provide schools with the support they need to create learning environments that enable all students to succeed, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

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