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Clarifying Title IX on school sports

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WORLD Radio - Clarifying Title IX on school sports

Biden’s proposed change to Title IX regarding transgender bans in school sports confuses more than it clarifies


University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia. Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 13th of April, 2023.

You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler.

First up on The World and Everything in It: Transgenderism and school sports.

Back in March, the World Athletics Council banned biological men who’d gone through puberty from competing in women’s sports. This follows a similar decision by the World Aquatics organization back in June 2022. Now, the World Athletics Council did say that it would reexamine the policy ahead of the 2024 Olympics, but for now women competing at elite levels in sports like swimming and track and field are protected from competing against biological men.

REICHARD: But what about school sports?

Well, on Thursday, the Biden Administration proposed adding one sentence to the rules that apply Title IX to K thru 12 and college sports. Now, this sentence is a doozy, just over 80 words, so here’s the idea in brief. If a school which receives federal funding wants to make a rule prohibiting boys from playing on girls teams and vice versa, that rule must meet two criteria. First, it must be related to an educational objective. And second, it must minimize the harm transgender students would experience in being barred from playing with members of the sex with which they identify. But the rule is pretty vague on what counts as minimal harm, so if it goes into effect, it’ll be up to the lawyers to figure out those specifics in court.

BUTLER: WORLD’s education reporter Lauren Dunn says that for schools looking for guidance on tough decisions regarding transgenderism and school sports, the policy isn’t helpful.

LAUREN DUNN: Looking at the fact sheet from the Department of Education, we see lots of phrases like “generally be able to participate,” or “particularly difficult to justify,” “reasonable provisions giving schools flexibility.” And it just shows that even though the document says it was set up to give clarity to schools, it really doesn't do that.

REICHARD: And given the events of the past year, schools from kindergarten to college need clarity now more than ever.

Back in March 2022, a biological male identifying as a female named Lia Thomas won the NCAA championship, defeating every biological female in the competition.

BUTLER: Mimi Crush, a Louisville, KY, swim coach is the mother of one of those swimmers, who at the time was a freshman at NC State. While she generally avoids using words like “fair” or “unfair” when it comes to swimming, Mimi says this situation was different.

MIMI CRUSH: The beautiful thing about our sport is that it is very much time based. So the clock does not lie, you know, the pool is perfectly set up so everybody gets the same water, the same space in the lane. So it is, as far as, you know, fairness goes, our sport is already set up to be pretty objective. But I feel like in this particular situation, it is perfectly described. I mean, that is what it, I mean, it was not fair for Leah to be competing with, against these women.

REICHARD: One of those women was Riley Gaines, who tied for 5th with Thomas in the women’s 200 meter freestyle championship race. Because there was only one fifth place trophy on hand at the awards ceremony, the NCAA decided to give it to Thomas instead of Gaines.

Fast forward to last week. Gaines was invited to tell her story at a Turning Point USA event at San Francisco State University. While many of the attendees supported Gaines, a group of protesters grew so loud and even physically abusive that police had to escort Gaines to another room.

SOUND: [People yelling “trans rights are human rights”]

Sound heard there from a video Gaines posted after the event.

BUTLER: Now, Gaines is just one example of many female athletes getting attacked for opposing policies that allow biological men to play in women’s sports. And that’s something the framers of Title IX’s protections for women’s rights could never have anticipated. Here’s WORLD’s Lauren Dunn again.

DUNN: Title IX was passed into law a little over 50 years ago with the purpose of protecting women's participation in sports to make sure they had equal rights in sports compared to men. And with these rules and similar policies, what we see is Title IX being used really to protect men—biological males—participation in women's sports. So it's just another example of how this transgender ideology becomes a topsy-turvy take on the world and really ends up hurting people that we've tried for a long time to secure rights for and to secure equal protection for.

REICHARD: The proposed change to Title IX regulations is not yet on the books. It will enter a public comment period sometime in the next couple weeks, and then the Department of Education will review those comments and make changes. A similar rule that was proposed last June has not yet come into effect, so there’s no guarantee that this new rule about transgenderism and school sports will hit the pool anytime soon.

BUTLER: Lauren Dunn is WORLD’s reporter on the education beat. To stay up to date on stories like these, you can sign up for her weekly roundup called Schooled at wng.org/newsletters.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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