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Transcript: Title IX: 50 Years Later

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MS. ALEMANY: Good morning, and welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m Jackie Alemany, a congressional investigations reporter here at The Washington Post.

Today marks 50 years since Title IX was signed into law. It's a law that, in one sentence, outlaws discrimination in educational programs on the basis of sex. The area with the most visible impact is on women's athletics. So I'm delighted today to be joined by two women whose athleticism has contributed immensely to the historic nature of Title IX in today's sports landscape, Briana Scurry, author and former goalkeeper for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, and Jasmyne Spencer, a player for the Angel City Football Club. Welcome to both of you for joining us at Washington Post Live today. We really appreciate it.

MS. SCURRY: Thank you. Great to be here.

MS. SPENCER: Yes, likewise. Excited to have this conversation.

MS. ALEMANY: Briana, I want to get started with you first. You are permanent part of the National Museum of African American History and Culture's Title IX exhibit. When did you first learn about Title IX, and how did it impact your career?

MS. SCURRY: Wow. You know, Title IX has made such an impact on me, like you said. I don't think we'd be having this conversation right now if it weren't for Title IX.

My family didn't have a lot of money to be able to afford for me to go to college, and so I knew I had to get a scholarship in order to even attend school. And so I was able to do that because of Title IX.

Also, in my sport of soccer, the universities and colleges were using soccer to be able to come into compliance with Title IX. That was a sport that they chose to put a lot of time and effort into, and so, luckily for me, right around the time I was going into school, options were available for me at the time, so it's instrumental in the life and career.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Jasmyne, last month, the men's national team and women's national team came to a collective bargaining agreement that ensures true equal pay. Can you talk to us a little bit about the significance of this agreement and how it's a symbol of the progress started by Title IX today?

MS. SPENCER: Yeah. I think it's a huge testament to all the work for the women who have come before me to really lay the groundwork and fight for that level of equality, and it's finally paying off. You know, it's taken some time. But I think it's a huge push forward for women's sports in general, and hopefully, we can use that momentum to continue to create more equality.

MS. ALEMANY: And you play for a relatively new football team, for those of our viewers who might not know, founded by Natalie Portman, which has also attracted investors like Jennifer Garner, Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, and more. What do you think their support says about the progress of women's equality on the field?

MS. SPENCER: I think it speaks volumes to the fight for equality in general. You know, the women you listed are not known for their prevalence in the sport of soccer, but they understood that women as a group, the more that we have each other's backs and can uplift each other in our representative industries, the greater our success is together.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Briana, clearly, female athletics has made significant gains in the last 50 years, but obviously, inequality still exists. What do you think needs to come next to continue the legacy of Title IX and further promote equality on the playing field?

MS. SCURRY: Well, I think we have two fantastic examples of where equality can occur. First was the women's tennis association making the four major tournaments equal for men and women, and now, as Jasmyne said so eloquently, women's team is now‑‑has equality with the men's team. I'm thankful to have that, and thankfully because of Cindy Parlow Cone going to the head as president of the federation. That's, in my opinion, the main factor as to why we even have that.

So I think in the future, with that said, women in positions of power to make decisions and to make policy is the key. I think right now we still have a limited amount of women in positions of power. The example you made earlier about Natalie Portman, I mean, she is a part owner of the team and got together with her other actress friends and were able to get that going, and that kind of influence and action for women is what I think needs to happen going forward to make it more equal.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Briana, I want to say with you and talk about some of the news of the week. There was big news with FINA making a decision that precludes female transgender athletes from participating in women's competitions. How does this news resonate with you as a female athlete?

MS. SCURRY: I was saddened by it, and here's why. When an individual makes a decision such as this to feel‑‑and they know that they are not the gender that they feel and know they are, there's so much that goes into that decision. And I feel that this ruling is almost saying to that individual, you are only doing this to seek advantage, and that is so far from the truth and what the reasoning is for why they did this.

I mean, I can't imagine feeling like I was born in the wrong body, what kind of torment that must be putting on those individuals and what I would feel if that were me, and so I think it's wrong. I don't like it. I don't see how this major decision by an international organization is fair, and I'm interested to see if it's either‑‑if it's even going to be upheld.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Jasmyne, I want to get your take on this too. An argument that we're seeing now is that every roster or spot earned by a transgender female athlete is denying her cisgender opponent of a federally protected opportunity. Do you agree with that argument?

MS. SPENCER: No. I think when you think of the root of sports, it should be a place that is completely inclusive, and the beauty of Title IX is that, you know, that was taking one step and making sport more gender inclusive, and I think as our knowledge and acceptance of the term "gender" grows, then the opportunity for people who identify across all genders should be given the same opportunities to compete and enjoy and play the sports they love.

MS. ALEMANY: And I should note, as my‑‑our brilliant researcher, Lauren Prince, points out, Title IX was actually never intended to affect sports. The original design of it was to curb the impact of selected admissions or jobs at universities on the basis of sex discrimination, but extracurricular sports quickly became a part of that and a component of the interpretation. So I'm wondering, Briana, in light of that, where Title IX is somewhat of a living law that remains a vital piece of the ongoing push for equality, including in the LGBTQ community, where you see the next great push for equality on the playing field.

MS. SCURRY: I'll tell you what, I think athletics is a great example of that, like you said, but I understood too that it wasn't the original intent of the law. But I feel like it is the way to go.

I mean, I think athletics is always going to be in the forefront of the push because not only are athletes able to express themselves through their sport, they're also able to create change in other areas of our society, and I think forever, athletes and athletics will be in the forefront of change. And with this law, you know, being predominantly shown and felt through athletics, I don't see how that actually is ever going to change. I think that's always going to be the case.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Jasmyne, to quote Billie Jean King, she said that "You can never understand inclusion until you've been excluded." What do you think that the resolution is here for transgender athletes?

MS. SPENCER: Yeah. I think that those words are so powerful, and I think that it's incredibly painful to feel like just because you identify a certain way that people don't value you or feel that you deserve the same opportunities as someone else, and I think again, like, the more we can lead with an open heart and inclusivity and the more hard conversations we can have together, I don't see why we can't find a solution where everyone is given the same opportunity to compete and participate.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Jasmyne, I want to stick with you because this is something that I'm sure or might bother you on a daily basis, as this is part of your day‑to-day, but a 30‑year study that just came out by the Nieman Journalism Lab, released last year, found a systemic problem with media coverage ignoring women's sports. Do you think women's sports would receive more funding if it were more widely covered and consistently covered by the media?

MS. SPENCER: Yeah, a hundred percent, and I think what we are building and showcasing here at Angel City is exactly that, that the more money that you invest, the greater the output is. And, you know, we're nearly selling out our stadium every home game, and it's our first season, and that's just a testament to what the club has built, the amazing women who have come behind and supported us and marketed and just really put us in the limelight. You see us on billboards and bus stops, and I think that, you know, we're just an example that it can happen and that people need to continue to invest in women's sports.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Briana, I want to move to a different part of the conversation. Title IX was designed by a diverse group of women, but its impact has disproportionately benefited white women in athletics and in academic opportunities. What do you think needs to be done to make sure that all athletes, regardless of the gender identity or race, have equal opportunities to engage in athletics?

MS. SCURRY: I think the reason that happens is similar to the reason why high‑level women's soccer athletes seem to not be getting the same opportunities, geographical issues, economic issues, and the "gatekeepers" is what I call them. And so I feel like what needs to happen is more women of color and more women in general need to be in positions of power making these decisions as to how dollars are allocated, as to how people receive choices or chances and opportunity or they don't.

I think the positions of power, the gatekeepers, is the number one reason as to why certain groups are discriminated against, and so I think that needs to happen. More people that are of color and are women need to be in these positions in order for this to change.

MS. ALEMANY: And there are activists who believe that the way athletes are respected is mirrored in other parts of our everyday life. Do you think that's true?

MS. SCURRY: I do. I do think that's true. I feel that if you are able to express yourself on the playing field and you are able to have a platform pretty much to express your views or how your life is coming at you or how the things you are experiencing are affecting you, then you can share that, and you bring attention to it by being a high‑level athlete. You bring attention to it by being brave and being willing to have that discussion with people.

And I feel now is a great time with social media and the advent of that, that is a great option, opportunity to use, and I think a lot of fantastic players and athletes, including, you know, people who are playing soccer, the women who are playing soccer especially in the NWSL, are using social media to bring attention to the things that need attention.

MS. ALEMANY: Yeah. And, actually, on that topic, Briana, I want to ask you both if either of you have any comment on the Brittney Griner situation. Obviously, she's been detained in Russia now for quite some time and whether or not you would like to see the Biden administration do more to try to get her back home.

MS. SCURRY: I would. I would like to see more done.

I understand that the original push by the league was to be quiet and not make too much of a stir out of her safety and so that Russia wouldn't think that they could use her as a pawn. Well, I just don't‑‑I just don't think that that's the proper way to go about it now.

MS. ALEMANY: And, Jasmyne, before we wrap up our conversation, I want to ask you the last question. What do you think that you and other current athletes can contribute to the legacy of Title IX and the push to protect the rights for other athletes?

MS. SPENCER: Yeah. I think we can continue to use our platforms and come together and push the needle forward. We still would love to see more endorsement deals, more promotion behind us, more investment in the women's game, and equal play at the domestic level as well. So there's still a lot to be done, but I think we're all up for the task, and we have an incredible generation who's come before us to lean on and continue to mentor us, and I feel confident that we'll be able to, you know, in another 50 years, shock ourselves with the amount of growth we've contributed to.

MS. ALEMANY: And, actually, I just want to ask you two as well, if you had the opportunity to make the pitch directly to people to become fans and engage more in women's sports, what does that pitch look like?

MS. SCURRY: Well, all I can say is look at players like Jasmyne. I mean, she is incredibly dynamic. She's a fantastic player and obviously is well in tune to what the sport needs, and I think the event and the experience is one that you can't find anywhere else. Women's athletics are family friendly. They are, you know, exciting, and let's face it, the young girls of today need to have an example that they can see and touch and feel. So taking your daughters to women's athletic events and in person is the way to go.

MS. ALEMANY: Jasmyne, what about you?

MS. SPENCER: [Laughs] It's hard to follow that up.

MS. ALEMANY: Your‑‑[audio distortion] image.

MS. SPENCER: I would‑‑I would just‑‑I would just add that, yeah, like, we are incredible athletes. We're incredible people, and we're not going anywhere, you know. Like, we‑‑we're continuing to prove our worth, and you just kind of jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride. We're all incredible people, and we're putting on incredible shows, so tune in.

MS. ALEMANY: Unfortunately, we are just about out of time. Briana and Jasmyne, I want to thank you so much for joining us here today on the Washington for this timely conversation, and, Jasmyne, good luck with your season ahead.

MS. SPENCER: Thank you.

MS. SCURRY: Good luck, Jasmyne.

MS. ALEMANY: I'm Jackie Alemany. My colleague, Leigh Ann Caldwell is going to be back on here in just a minute with the Department of Education's Catherine Lhamon. Please stay with us.

MS. UMOH: Hello. I am Ruth Umoh, leadership editor at Fortune.

Fifty years ago, the landmark Title IX law was passed, prohibiting sex discrimination in education and ultimately paving the way for a new generation of progress in the fight for gender justice.

I'm joined today by Emily Martin and Shiwali Patel from the National Women's Law Center to discuss the next era of Title IX and what it means for students to learn with safety, dignity, and equality.

Welcome to you both. Thank you so much for joining us.

MS. MARTIN: Thank you.

MS. PATEL: Thank you.

MS. UMOH: Of course. Let's jump right into things. Getting access to reproductive care, including the right to abortion, is a hugely critical part of a student's ability to learn. That right is being decimated at both the federal and state level.

Emily, does Title IX provide any protections for students?

MS. MARTIN: It does. Now, Title IX is not a full solution by any means to the attacks that we're seeing on the right to abortion, on the rights to reproductive health care, but part of Title IX's protection against sex discrimination in schools is protection against discrimination both on the basis of pregnancy and on the basis of termination of pregnancy.

So what that means is if you as a student are experiencing harassment or discrimination because you had an abortion or because you're seeking an abortion, that's a violation of Title IX. If a school administrator has retaliated against you because they know you've had an abortion, if they're refusing to excuse absences that would be excused for any other sort of medical procedure, that's a violation of Title IX. So there's an important framework of rights that Title IX provides in the midst of this really scary time around reproductive access.

MS. UMOH: Thank you. And related to that is the fact that Title IX has been a cornerstone for the protections that student survivors of sexual assault and its harassment have historically been able to access, but we know that there's still so much more that can be done, including by the current administration.

Shiwali, talk to us about that.

MS. PATEL: Sexual violence in schools has been consistently prevalent for years, and it has a significant impact on students, which for many includes dropping out of school altogether. And so, for decades, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized that there's civil rights protections for survivors under Title IX, and as a result, steps that schools have to take to address sexual harassment meaningfully.

But, unfortunately, the Trump administration rolled back these protections, many of which that have been in place for decades, when Betsy DeVos was Secretary of Education, and they replace it with a new rule, and new Title IX rule in 2020 that significantly weakened protections and just further rolled sexual harassment under the rug.

And so, when President Biden came into office, he promised, like, he would review these Title IX rules and address how they could better protect students, and so now we're expecting the current administration to take steps to undo the harms caused by the former administration.

MS. UMOH: Absolutely. And, Shiwali, I'd like to expand beyond that piece and look ahead to the next era of Title IX. What other challenges and opportunities are currently top of mind for you?

MS. PATEL: So one challenge that we've been seeing more and more of is this growing backlash against strong civil rights protections under Title IX and a backlash that has been led mostly by fringe groups, men's rights advocates who in response to more enforcement of Title IX, especially under the Obama administration, responded with retaliation against student survivors, by the filing of retaliatory cross‑complaints or defamation lawsuits or reverse discrimination suits, all to silent survivors and meant to distract us from the real issue.

And, similarly, we're seeing a backlash against strong Title IX protections for LGBTQI+ students, especially trans students who are already so vulnerable to discrimination and harassment, and this backlash is often led by powerful and well‑financed right‑wing groups and has contributed to the unprecedented amount of state laws and policies that we've seen this year targeting trans students.

But I do see as an opportunity this rulemaking that the Biden administration is planning to undergo to change the Title IX rules. I see it not only as an opportunity to restore protections addressing sexual harassment but to also solidify protections for LGBTQI+ students.

MS. UMOH: Yeah. There's certainly an opportunity to do more there.

Emily, it seems as though everywhere we look, there's a story about efforts to curb diversity and inclusion learning in schools from anti‑critical race theory work to anti‑trans sports and even a book banning. What do you think is fueling this rhetoric?

MS. MARTIN: Well, I think these attempts to sow fear and division are focused on schools because of the recognition that schools are important places where students learn what to expect in the world, learn what fairness is, learn how to think about issues like racial justice and gender justice. It's precisely because the Title IX and other legal protections have been so transformative that we are seeing this backlash and this attempt to roll back the clock and this attempt to sow what is really a false narrative that somehow civil rights must come at the expense of somebody else, that it's a zero‑sum game. That's just, frankly, not true.

And one of the things that we at the National Women's Law Center are re‑dedicating ourselves to during the 50th anniversary of Title IX is to tell the story to amplify the truth that when we have schools that are more equitable, that are safer, that respect students' dignity, that that benefits everybody. That's really the lesson in this story of Title IX.

MS. UMOH: Lovely. Huge takeaway there. I mean, Title IX was a groundbreaking law when it was passed, and 50 years down the line, maintaining and expanding equity protections is just as critical, if not more so.

Thank you, Shiwali and Emily, for such a robust conversation and for your deep insights.

Now back to The Washington Post.

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MS. CALDWELL: Welcome back. I am Leigh Ann Caldwell. I'm an anchor here at Washington Post Live and also coauthor of the Early 202 newsletter.

If you are just joining us, we are talking about Title IX. Today is the 50th anniversary of that landmark rule that gave women and girls equal footing in sports and in schools, but that is not a finality. There's a lot of conversations right now going on over the past few months about who is protected under that and what that means and where Title IX is going to go from here.

So joining us for a very timely conversation is Catherine Lhamon. She's assistant secretary for Civil Rights Division at the Department of Education. Catherine, thanks so much for joining us today.

MS. LHAMON: Leigh Ann, thanks so much for doing this.

MS. CALDWELL: Before we get started, I want to remind our audience that you can tweet us questions at @PostLive on our Twitter page, and we will try to get them asked.

So, Catherine, we are talking just after your department, the Biden administration unveiled new rules‑‑or proposed rules for Title IX, I should say, to ensure that Title IX not only protects against sex discrimination but also gender identity and sexual orientation, so essentially transgender children, LGBTQI children as well. Can you talk to me a little bit about the importance of this and what this actually could do if it goes through?

MS. LHAMON: Sure. We're really pleased to be able to share today on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a way to give full effect to Congress intent. The law that Congress wrote says no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of sex, and so we want to make sure that all the ways that students show up in school, all the ways that discrimination can impact students' lives, that they are protected in Title IX, and that we are clear with our regulations that every student's rights will be fully secured.

So the proposed rules that we have shared today make clear for the first time in regulation that the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex that is in Title IX extends to protect students based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity, it protects pregnant students, it protects every student in every way that a student is in school.

MS. CALDWELL: Can you give me an example of how this would change how someone who might not have been protected before this? Of course, this hasn't gone into effect yet. It's a rulemaking, correct? And so‑‑and how, if it does go into effect, that person would be protected?

MS. LHAMON: Well, what it changes is the clarity of the department's enforcement and the department's understanding of what the law is. The law is what Congress wrote already, and the courts over and over and over have made clear that students, transgender students, gay students are protected by the sex discrimination protections in Title IX. We want to make sure that our regulations say that, that they're consistent with what the courts say, and that no student, no educator, no one in the school community anywhere has to wonder whether the student is protected and whether the stereotyping that can take place for a student or a hostile environment that can take place because of who a student is, that no one has to wonder whether the law protects against that kind of problem.

MS. CALDWELL: What sort of impact do you think that this will have in schools around the country, and what sort of pushback do you think that the Department of Education and the Biden administration will receive?

MS. LHAMON: Well, we're looking forward to comments, and, you know, that these are proposed rules, and so we're inviting people to share their views. And so, to the extent that people have pros and cons that they want to share, we'd like to hear what they are.

In the main, our expectation is that students will know the president, the federal government has their back, that we are clear about ensuring that nondiscrimination is the law and that it should be the lived experience at the desktop in their schools every day in every part of the country. That is‑‑that's what we come here for. That's what it is our job to protect, and we want to make sure that no one is unclear about the ways that this law that is now 50 years old extends to the practices that take place right now in schools.

MS. CALDWELL: So the last Secretary of Education under the Trump administration, Betsy DeVos, she told Fox News earlier today that this is a bridge too far, that it redefines gender. What is your reaction to that?

MS. LHAMON: Well, Congress wrote the law, and the law is no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of sex. We have to give full effect to the law that Congress wrote, and I think that Congress in its wisdom understood exactly what it was doing.

And I believe as a mother, I believe as the chief civil rights enforcer in the nation's schools, and I believe as a former student that each one of us should be able to go to school expecting that we will be respected and valued for exactly who we are and that our schools will be ready for us.

MS. CALDWELL: In this, are there going to be any changes to the Trump administration, you know, sexual misconduct rule that they put in that gave the accused a lot more rights and made it much more difficult for victims to challenge their sexual assault or harassment at school?

MS. LHAMON: Well, the proposed rules that we issue today say the ways that we would make changes to the existing Title IX regulations and the ways that we will give full effect to the law, including with respect to sex discrimination, sex assault, and sex‑based harassment in school, that we absolutely retain protections for all parties involved in investigations and fair process. It's a crucial component of equity and the equity component in Title IX.

And we want to make sure that schools understand their obligation to make sure that every student is safe to come forward, that every student can be safe to learn in school, and that schools have an obligation to address all the forms of sex discrimination and to better give complete effect to the law as Congress wrote it to ensure students' safety in school.

So we are eager to find ourselves in a new place that gives full and complete effect to the statute with our regulations.

MS. CALDWELL: But just to clarify, are you rolling back the Trump administration rule?

MS. LHAMON: We're making‑‑we're proposing necessary changes to do more to ensure student safety in school and to ensure that schools fulfill the comprehensive obligation that Congress wrote.

These are proposals. If these proposals become final, they would make material and important changes to the regulations to do what Congress demanded that this department does to enforce Title IX.

MS. CALDWELL: But what are those changes? I think they're trying to understand because it gave a lot of due process to the accused under the Trump administration. So what would this do differently?

MS. LHAMON: Well, certainly, we would retain required due process. We would retain required fair process for all students, that that piece will be unchanged.

But, for example, the current regulations require schools to dismiss complaints that come to them in particular circumstances rather than to investigate them. We think that's wrong. We think that schools should be investigating the allegations that students raise, that the current rules would require that students in colleges and universities report only to particular people, and then only if they report to those people does the school have an obligation to act. We think it's important for schools to address discrimination that may be occurring in their educational programs, period, and that we shouldn't be narrowing the schools' obligation to investigation.

Likewise, the current rules require that schools not address hostile environments that exist in their schools if the original conduct that contributed to that hostile environment took place off campus or took place outside the United States. That's inconsistent with the law, and so we want to make sure that schools are fully ensuring that their students are safe and are able to enjoy learning and focus on the education that they are to receive.

MS. CALDWELL: The administration declined to make any changes to the athletic component of this and said perhaps at a later time. Why not now?

MS. LHAMON: I do want to correct that. We didn't say perhaps at a later time. We have committed that we will engage in a separate rulemaking that will begin to address specifically the issue of eligibility to participate in male and female teams.

The Congress has given the Secretary special, specific authority to address athletics eligibility under Title IX. We think it deserves the specific attention that Congress conceived in that statutory provision, and in addition, as we know, this is an evolving area. And we want to make sure that we benefit from the expertise and the evaluation that is taking place in athletics associations, in school communities all across the country to be able to have the most fulsome analysis in the separate rulemaking. That, we are committed to.

MS. CALDWELL: Transgender participation in sports, especially elite sports and college athletics is a hot topic.

I was actually a college swimmer. Last night at my kid's summer league swim team, it was a topic of conversation, especially as FINA, the international governing body that oversees college swimming, made a decision that if a child does not transition before age 12, they are not able to compete.

So is the administration going to look at what these international governing bodies of supports do and what decisions they make to help inform their decision?

MS. LHAMON: Of course. We're interested in what the various athletic associations are doing. We're interested in the science. We're interested in the law. We're interested in students' experiences. We're interested in people's views about the ways that Title IX does and doesn't effectuate their opportunities in schools. And so, of course, we will be interested in all views and in all research and in all information on the topic, and we want to drive toward standards and eligibility that meet the equity principle, meet the principle in the law that no person shall be subject to discrimination, and allow for the actual competition and actual athletic opportunity that meets the interests of students all over the country.

MS. CALDWELL: What's the timeline for this athletic rulemaking process?

MS. LHAMON: We don't have an announcement on the timeline today, but what I can say to you is that we know that every day, there are students in schools, and this topic is urgent, and it's urgent for us to address. And we will bring all of our resources to bear to that question.

MS. CALDWELL: And I do ask the timeline because there is an election in a few months, the midterm election, and this issue is extremely political. There is a group of Senate Republicans who are holding a press conference today on this very issue on Title IX, transgender participation in sports. And so, you know, how do you‑‑does the administration feel pressure to either act soon or to actually punt and put off until perhaps next year after an election?

MS. LHAMON: Leigh Ann, let me tell you what I feel. I am the chief civil rights enforcer in the nation's schools, and I feel pressure every day to make sure that every student's right is respected every day in every way. There's no more pressure that I need or that we need as an administration to figure out how to answer this question and to do right by students.

To me, this is not a political issue. This is an issue of students' rights and civil rights, and they have to transcend so that we can make sure that no student ever is hurt in school.

MS. CALDWELL: Mm‑hmm. I want to ask you about Title IX complaint. There are thousands of them, and so, you know, is there‑‑what is the process for schools? Is that going to be different or change to sort of bringing complaints to schools and, you know, administration officials, and is that something that is a priority for the administration?

MS. LHAMON: Well, sure, this is a huge priority, right? The president issued an executive order in March 2021 to direct the Department of Education to evaluate our Title IX rule to see if there's more that can be done to effectuate the nondiscrimination promise from Congress, and so that lets us know that this is an enormous priority for the president. It's an enormous priority for us in the department.

We do expect that if these proposals become final, then school procedures will change. That's why we're issuing the rules, to identify ways that we can do better to give purpose to lived experience, to the promise that is in Title IX, so that all schools are fulfilling it and all students get to experience nondiscrimination.

So we look forward to changes that we think are necessary that we have described in the proposed rules today, and we look forward to hearing comments and then modifying as needed and then getting to a place where we are clear with all schools about what in addition is needed to ensure nondiscrimination.

MS. CALDWELL: Has the pandemic helped shape that, especially with the reporting component where people were not in school but in person, but in school virtually? And school has changed since then.

MS. LHAMON: Sure. The pandemic has changed all of our understanding of all aspects of our lives and certainly aspects of schooling, and we have seen ways that the pandemic has caused some students to feel less engaged with schools, other ways that the pandemic has lifted the primacy of the importance of the relationships at school, and we want to make sure that we are responsive to the changed circumstance we all live now following the pandemic. And there are specific elements that have become more relevant in our thinking and across the country for how school proceedings should be conducted. For example, should it be permissible for students to be able to be remote in conversation as schools are conducting grievance procedures? And we think it should, and we would‑‑we have proposed including availability through technology for remote participation as needed, for example.

MS. CALDWELL: Where do you see Title IX in the next‑‑or let me back up a little bit. Is there some concern that with this new rulemaking that this is just, you know, a Democratic administration, and that a future Republican administration could roll some of this back?

MS. LHAMON: You know, I want to say my hope is that all of us going forward will actually give full effect to what Congress promised us 50 years ago. It's a beautiful set of promises. The transformation that it has brought has been amazing for students across the country and for the experience of people who have graduated from school and moved on in their lives living the promise of equity. So that is astonishing, amazing, such a gift to us, and we should be expanding, and we should be moving forward.

It is my hope that any administration would do right by students. It is my hope that the civil rights promises from Congress will actually be the things that any administration would be moving forward.

I am in this administration, and I can commit to what this administration will do, and we will have absolute fealty to the law.

MS. CALDWELL: Will Congress need to appropriate new money to ensure that these components are implemented?

MS. LHAMON: The components in Title IX, the requirements that are there are already there, and the things that we would include in our proposed rules are things that schools can do within their existing budgets, and we try to be very, very thoughtful about the challenges that school administrators have to be able to do their jobs and to ensure students' rights.

MS. CALDWELL: You know, there are‑‑there's protests. There are rowdy school board meetings across the country about some of these issues, not only‑‑you know, of course, the critical race theory but also, separately, you know, gender, the Don't Say Gay bill in Florida. How will this impact those Republican‑‑will the‑‑you know, will this impact what conservative Republican states are implementing around the country or trying to?

MS. LHAMON: Look, a discriminatory state law is no defense to a Title IX violation. Congress wrote the "irreducible minimum" in Title IX for what each of us should be able to experience in school and what protections are available to us, and my expectation is our country's expectation should be that we at least live up to those.

MS. CALDWELL: And relatedly, you know, I mentioned critical race theory. It's not necessarily Title IX, but I'm assuming it comes under your division. Is there any sort of clarity that the administration is trying to put out or to protect a lot of these schools of implementing a curriculum that they want, regardless of the pushback of‑‑you know, that there's a lot of pushback in a lot of these school districts?

MS. LHAMON: Well, I'll say two things. Curricular decisions are local decisions, and the federal government doesn't get involved in curriculum itself.

My office is charged with and ready to do the investigation and the enforcement to ensure that hostile environments don't exist for students in schools, and that no student is discriminated against based on race, based on sex, based on disability. Those are laws that we take very seriously, and the hundreds of staff who work with me are ready to work with any student who needs us in any part of the country.

MS. CALDWELL: And do you expect any Supreme Court‑‑or court challenges, I should say, based on this new rulemaking, should it go into effect?

MS. LHAMON: Well, we've already heard that there are folks who are ready to challenge it. I believe that we are proposing rules that are fully lawful and we expect to be able to fully implement them in schools.

MS. CALDWELL: Great. And, you know, as far as looking down the road, where do you see Title IX moving beyond this? Is this kind of the end of protections for Title IX, or is there something more that still needs to be done?

MS. LHAMON: Every year, there are new students who go to school. Every year, there are new ways that students might be discriminated against, and what we have seen over these first 50 years of Title IX is that justice isn't a destination that you reach, you check the box, then you move on. It's always work to make sure that we live up to our ideals, and we will always be ready to ensure that every student is fully protected.

So nobody is going anywhere in the Department of Education, and we are ready to help students in schools all across the country.

MS. CALDWELL: Catherine Lhamon, we are out of time. Thank you so much for your time today on this very big news that now Title IX will be expanded to protect transgender students in schools, and we look forward to what you guys decide on the athletics component of this. Thanks so much for joining us today.

MS. LHAMON: Thanks for having me. Take care.

MS. CALDWELL: Great. And for our audience, thank you so much for joining. You can see this entire program or get a transcript of all of our other programs on Thanks so much.

[End recorded session]