Attorney General Bonta Joins Multistate Coalition in Ongoing Effort to Undo Harmful Effects of Trump Era Title IX Regulations
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of class action plaintiffs’ efforts in Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education to undo Trump-era regulations that worked to weaken protections under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). Title IX requires schools to provide educational programs and activities free from sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. In the amicus brief, the coalition highlights the states’ strong interest in protecting students from sex-based discrimination, including through notification requirements around a school’s relevant policies prior to a student’s enrollment.
“Every student is entitled to an education free from discrimination,” said Attorney General Bonta. “That’s exactly what Title IX works to do. It protects our students from discrimination on the basis of their sex. Unfortunately, we’re still confronting the harmful, lasting effects of the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken Title IX, including when it comes to LGBTQ+ college students. At the California Department of Justice, we’ll continue to do our part to stand up for all of our communities here at home and across the nation. Bottom line: There is no room for discrimination that puts our students’ education at risk.”
In 2020, the U.S. Department of Education promulgated two rules that worked to significantly change how Title IX is enforced. Specifically, an August 2020 rule took steps to eliminate the forty-year-old regulation requiring educational institutions to advise the Office for Civil Rights “in writing” if it seeks a religious exemption, permitting schools to invoke the exemption without notice at any time. A November 2020 rule specified eligibility criteria that reinterpreted and substantially expanded what it means for a school to be “controlled by a religious organization.” Both rules are inconsistent with the manifest purpose of Title IX, which shows that Congress intended to create a narrow religious exemption and to ensure that students are provided with notice as to whether Title IX provides protection. Taken together, these rule changes have created an unlawful “escape hatch” undermining Title IX’s broad anti-discrimination mandate and a situation in which students may unknowingly enroll in schools that do not publicly claim exemption from Title IX, only to learn of their school’s position after they have been discriminated against and seek to assert their rights. The multistate coalition’s amicus brief is in support of a class of plaintiffs who, among other things, raise that very same concern.
In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts, among other things:
- The November 2020 eligibility rule is inconsistent with the text and purpose of Title IX’s religious exemption;
- The eligibility rule contravenes the plain text and purpose of Title IX;
- The August 2020 rule eliminating the requirement that schools invoke the religious exemption in writing compounds the problems created by the eligibility rule; and
- The Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it promulgated both rules.
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here. California’s Title IX case against the federal government is ongoing. However, the case is on hold pending further potential changes to the rules by the current federal government.