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Office for Civil Rights Blog - 20210616


June 16, 2021

Protecting Students: Sex Discrimination


Today, the Office for Civil Rights issued a Notice of Interpretation explaining that we will enforce Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, consistent with the reasoning in Bostock v. Clayton County, issued one year ago this week.

In Bostock, the Supreme Court recognized that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person” because of their sexual orientation or gender identity “without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” That reasoning should—and does—apply regardless of whether the individual is an adult in a workplace or a student in school. As we celebrate Pride Month and recognize the many ways that the LGBTQ+ community has contributed to our country, OCR affirms our commitment to guaranteeing all students—including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+)—an educational environment free from discrimination.

As Secretary Cardona said, the LGBTQ+ community has “fought to be treated fairly, to live their lives without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination,” and to “be who they are — without exception, and with understanding and appreciation.”

Sadly, the pandemic has only exacerbated some of the hardships faced by LGBTQ+ students. Last week, OCR released “Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students,” which showed, among other things, that LGBTQ+ students often face barriers to participating fully and equally in school because of disproportionate and persistent bullying, harassment, and victimization. And many LGBTQ+ students have lost access to affirming school-based services, counseling, affinity groups, and other supports important to well-being. These findings merit concern, outrage, and action. Achieving equity in education means fighting to ensure that all students have access to schools that support them as they learn. That fight—against harassment, exclusion, and discrimination—defines the mission of the Office for Civil Rights.

Today is an important milestone in the struggle to recognize the rights of LGBTQ+ students, one that we mark with pride. As we look ahead to the many challenges that remain, we are heartened by the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equality. As President Biden has said, “no one should ever face discrimination or live in fear because of who they are or whom they love.”

Thank you, and Happy Pride. 

Suzanne B. Goldberg
Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education

Last Modified: 07/02/2021