Tennessee Leads Fight to Preserve Title IX, Student Privacy, and Fairness for Women in Education

Tuesday, April 30, 2024 | 01:48pm

NASHVILLE - On Tuesday, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti led six states in suing the federal Department of Education (DOE) to challenge its dangerous overhaul of Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act, which would harm Tennessee students, families, and schools. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and is being co-led by Kentucky and West Virginia.

“The U.S. Department of Education has no authority to let boys into girls’ locker rooms,” Tennessee Attorney General Skrmetti said in a statement.  “In the decades since its adoption, Title IX has been universally understood to protect the privacy and safety of women in private spaces like locker rooms and bathrooms.  Under this radical and illegal attempt to rewrite the statute, if a man enters a woman’s locker room and a woman complains that makes her uncomfortable, the woman will be subject to investigation and penalties for violating the man’s civil rights.  Federal bureaucrats have no power to rewrite laws passed by the people’s elected representatives, and I expect the courts will put a stop to this unconstitutional power grab.”

For fifty years, Title IX has helped equalize women’s access to educational facilities and programs by barring discrimination based on sex by federally funded schools. At the same time, because of the enduring physical differences between men and women, Title IX has always allowed the sex-segregated spaces—like bathrooms and locker rooms—that are ubiquitous across the nation. 

Now, in the guise of confronting “gender identity discrimination,” DOE has finalized a rule essentially abolishing sex-based distinctions in educational activities and programs and forcing states like Tennessee to accept radical gender ideology in their schools.  And DOE has done so in blatant defiance of Congress’s repeated refusal to extend Title IX’s protections to anything other than sex.

If DOE’s unauthorized rewrite of Title IX is allowed to stand, Tennessee schools will have to allow males self-identifying as female—in every grade from preschool through college—to use girls’ and women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, play on girls’ and women’s sports teams, and access other female-only activities and spaces or risk losing billions in federal funding.

The sweeping Title IX mandate would upend schools’ long-lawful practices protecting student privacy, unfairly undermine women’s academic and athletic achievements and related advancement in society, and punish States for following their laws. DOE lacks the authority to implement such changes, and federal bureaucrats have no right to fundamentally change what it means to be a man or a woman.

The following states joined Tennessee’s, West Virginia’s, and Kentucky's lawsuit: Indiana, Ohio, and Virginia. Other state coalitions are filing similar challenges in the jurisdictions of other federal circuit courts of appeal. The complaint can be read here.