Federal administration acts to safeguard nonbinary, transgender athletes; local schools implement new regulations



Kay Stout, Cordova High School

The Biden administration is taking action to safeguard the inclusion of nonbinary and transgender student athletes on college and K–12 sports teams, but proposed regulations issued in April by the U.S. Department of Education have drawn criticism from both sides of a debate raging across America. 

Local school districts, including Folsom Cordova Unified School District, ultimately will be required to implement the new regulations when they are finalized.

Before that happens, the proposed rules will undergo a lengthy review process and could be substantially revised based on comments received from the public. 

The proposed regulations would interpret Title IX – a U.S. law which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools and colleges that receive federal funds – as forbidding outright bans on transgender participation in athletic programs. So schools could not prohibit participation solely because a student is transgender. However, the rules would provide schools the freedom to set some restrictions based on variables like age, sport type, and level of competition.

For FCUSD schools, the relevant Title IX policy states, “You have the right to fair and equitable treatment and shall not be discriminated against based on your sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. You have the right to be provided with an equitable opportunity to participate in all extracurricular activities, including both academics and athletics, regardless of your sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” (About Us / Title IX Notification/Sexual Harassment (fcusd.org)

At Cordova High School, principal Jered Hyden said, “Our policies follow the FCUSD District policies.” 

The Biden administration action responds to a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws enacted by Republican-dominated governments in states across the nation. Bans on transgender participation in school athletics programs have been adopted in 21 states. 


The proposed regulations have encountered criticism both from advocates who want to maximize restrictions on transgender rights and those who want the strongest safeguards for those rights. 

(Biden sports plan angers transgender advocates, opponents | AP News)

Meanwhile, Cordova High students have their own views on the subject. They say that, while the proposed regulations are a sign of progress, much more needs to be done to adequately protect the LGBTQ+ community.

“To be completely honest I don’t think it’s all that simple,” said sophomore Ash Fennel. “Republicans have been passing (laws) because of their insistence on this issue and the fact that this issue is one that remains questioned by many, as well as considered ‘woke’ or whatever in many ways that people will oppose this (regulation) or at least attempt to find a way around it. I’m not entirely sure how much the education system will change once this (regulation) is passed but it does at least look semi-hopeful for it to change at least subtly.”

“There is no neutralizing the hate towards trans youth unfortunately or the hate towards the queer community in general,” sophomore Zoe Lobbestael said. “Federal regulations can make things illegal or ban things in states but it doesn’t take away the general hate from people. I think education systems will change with it being passed but it needs to be followed with a lot more. We can only focus on small steps though and this small step has the opportunity to lead to more small steps which will, I hope, lead to acceptance, love and comfortability in both the trans community and the cis community.” 

Sophomore Miranda Steelman expressed similar sentiments. “I think that the effort from the federal government is definitely a step in the right direction,” she said. “But with the excessive amount of pushback from Republican states against the LGBTQ+ community, I don’t think that it’s possible to completely neutralize the anti-trans/gay laws in Republican states in one swoop because of all the harm they’ve already caused. Many Republican states have been absorbed in discriminatory politics and hateful policies and it will take additional and continuing future steps ensuring that discrimination in sports stops and that inclusion is being enforced.” 

“I think that this wouldn’t completely neutralize all the anti-LGBTQ+ laws Republican states have been passing but it would make an impact,” sophomore Kyle Brainard said. “Regarding the education systems, the law itself being passed wouldn’t change much of the education system but it could influence more laws to be implemented that would make it safer or more accepting for trans youth in school.” 

Proponents of participation bans argue transgender athletes have an advantage over cisgender women in competition. However, when it comes to figuring out whether adolescent trans women have a definite athletic advantage over cisgender girls, “extensive research is virtually nonexistent,” according to an Apr. 7 Associated Press article. (https://apnews.com/article/trans-athletes-biden-title-ix-28c6c78e9cd60a4c334de15bfdd624fe)   

For its part, the U.S. Department of Education said in issuing the proposed regulations, “The proposed rule would establish that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity just because of who they are.”

It added, “The proposed rule also recognizes that in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation. The proposed rule would provide schools with a framework for developing eligibility criteria that protects students from being denied equal athletic opportunity, while giving schools the flexibility to develop their own participation policies. (https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-us-department-educations-proposed-change-its-title-ix-regulations-students-eligibility-athletic-teams)

The debate over transgender participation in school athletics programs comes against the backdrop of a broader assault on the LGBTQ+ community.

According to American Civil Liberties Union data as of Apr. 3 2023, at least 417 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the United States this year, setting a new record. Already, that is more than twice as many similar bills as were introduced in the entire previous year.  Particularly, measures related to education and healthcare are piling up at an unprecedented rate. In eight states thus far in 2023, 29 anti-trans measures have been passed into law, (Record number of anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced this year | CNN Politics).

President Joe Biden in his State of the Union speech on Feb. 7 urged Congress to pass legislation defending transgender and non-binary youth against the onslaught of attacks they are facing.

“Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity,” he said.