By Tyler Clifford
(Reuters) -The Biden administration on Thursday proposed expanding Title IX protections against sex discrimination to include transgender students as part of a broader effort to replace Trump-era rules it said had weakened safeguards for sexual harassment victims.
The proposed changes, announced by the U.S. Education Department on the 50th anniversary of the law's passage, are aimed at K-12 schools and higher education institutions that receive federal funding.
They would address how the schools respond to complaints of sexual discrimination, harassment or assaults, and would mark the first time that transgender students would be explicitly protected under the law.
"Every student should be able to learn, grow, and thrive in school & not be derailed in their education by sex discrimination," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Twitter.
The proposal is likely to revive debates about transgender rights, particularly in sports, and spark legal challenges from conservatives. The department punted to a later date an effort to craft language to address how schools should handle gender identity in student athletics.
The National Women's Law Center, an advocacy group, praised the move to rewrite the regulations, while it called on President Joe Biden to put in place protections for trans student athletes.
"To fulfill Title IX’s promise in protecting all students, we urge the Biden administration to move quickly to affirm the ability of trans students to fully participate in sports," it said.
Title IX requires schools to provide equal opportunities for women in U.S. education programs. It has been credited with opening the door to more women in sports.
Under the Trump administration, the department had altered the rules to strengthen what it said was the due process rights of those accused of sexual assault.
The top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, Virginia Foxx, said the proposed changes would weaken due process rights, while the anticipated proposals for school sports would undermine female athletes.
"For an administration that claims to carry the torch for 'equality,' these proposed regulations are steeped in hypocrisy," she said in a statement.
The department said its plan, which faces a 60-day public comment period before it can be finalized, would "restore crucial protections" for student victims of sexual harassment, assault or discrimination.
It would require schools receiving federal funding to respond promptly to complaints of sexual discrimination, provide support to students filing complaints, and put in place procedures to cease sex discrimination in their programs.
(Reporting by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Richard Chang and Aurora Ellis)