Sarah Huckabee Sanders orders state to ignore new Title IX rules


Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) ordered the state on Thursday to defy new changes to Title IX that add protections for transgender students.

Sanders, the onetime press secretary to former President Trump, is the latest in a growing coalition of Republican governors to explicitly reject the Biden administration’s update to the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools and education programs that receive federal funding.

Sanders in an executive order signed Thursday said Title IX rules finalized last month by the Education Department that expand the meaning of sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity are “plainly ridiculous” and “will lead to males unfairly competing in women’s sports; receiving access to women’s and girls’ locker rooms, bathrooms, and private spaces; and competing for women’s scholarships.”

The order instructs schools to continue enforcing state laws that prevent transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms and competing on sports teams that match their gender identity. Schools should also continue to comply with a 2023 Arkansas law that prevents public school and state employees from addressing minors by a name or pronoun that does not align with their sex assigned at birth without permission from their parents.

“If Biden gets his way, female college students will shower and change next to male college students, referring to someone using biologically correct pronouns will get you all in front of a disciplinary board for harassment and scholarships previously reserved for women will now be open to anyone claiming to be a woman,” Sanders said Thursday at the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock.

“My message to Joe Biden and the federal government is that we will not comply,” she said.

More than a dozen Republican-led states have sued the Education Department over the new Title IX regulations, arguing that the expanded definition of sex discrimination to include gender identity is unlawful. It is not clear how Sanders will enforce the executive order, which is the first to challenge the federal government’s rule.

State education officials in GOP-controlled states have also instructed schools to ignore the new Title IX rule.

The Education Department did not immediately return a request for comment, though a department spokesperson previously told The Hill that schools “are obligated to comply with these final regulations” as a condition of receiving federal education funding.

Sanders’s executive order pledges to take legal action against the administration “for any financial loss, including loss of funding, incurred by the state due to the passage of the Biden administration’s unscientific agendas.”

“Only one of these is a law,” Sanders said Thursday. “We are not the group that has tried to circumvent the system, like the Biden administration is doing through the new guidance that they are issuing on Title IX. We are enforcing and upholding state law and we’re asking that our institutions follow Arkansas law.”

The Biden administration has yet to finalize a separate rule governing athletics eligibility.

The proposal unveiled by the Education Department last April would prohibit schools from adopting policies that categorically exclude transgender student-athletes, though high schools and colleges would still be able to limit how and when trans students are able to compete in accordance with their gender identity.

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