Metro Weekly

Louisiana Public Schools to Reject Protections for LGBTQ Students

Louisiana State Superintendent of Education urges schools not to adopt nondiscrimination policies complying with federal guidance on Title IX.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley – Photo: Louisiana Department of Education.

Just two months after President Joe Biden announced steps to increase federal protections for the LGBTQ community, it appears public schools in Louisiana will be refusing to implement policies protecting LGBTQ students that would comply with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.

As part of a larger executive order, Biden directed the Education Department to form a working group aimed at advancing pro-LGBTQ policies in schools, in the name of creating “safe and inclusive learning environments in which all students thrive.”

The extent of those policies may vary, but will largely embrace the principle that LGBTQ students, especially transgender students, are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex-based discriminatory practices in taxpayer-funded schools.

Last year, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, citing the legal logic underlying a landmark LGBTQ rights case from 2020, clarified that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is inherently a form of sex-based discrimination.

In issuing his executive order, Biden noted that over 300 proposed anti-LGBTQ laws have been introduced over the past year, many of which specifically target transgender children and their parents “by banning access to medical care and support at school.” The order, and the formation of the working group focused on pro-LGBTQ policies, were intended to provide a framework with which to implement the principles previously outlined by Cardona.

But many social conservatives, including Louisiana state officials, disagree with the premise that Title IX applies to any situation besides those explicitly dealing with a person’s assigned sex at birth. On August 30, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley published a letter illuminating the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDOE) stance on the issue.

“LDOE does not agree with the proposed changes nor do we recognize [the guidelines] as binding or enforceable at this time,” the letter reads, according to New Orleans-based NBC affiliate WDSU. “Therefore, school systems should not alter their local policies or procedures based solely on these overreaching guidance documents.”

Brumley also notes that, earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a law, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which took effect on Aug. 1. That piece of legislation, Brumley wrote, “affirms school-sanctioned athletic participation must be divided by biological sex unless the configuration is co-ed in nature,” meaning Louisiana schools may discriminate against transgender children by barring them from all athletic activities that do not match their assigned sex at birth.

According to WDSU, public schools in St. Tammany Parish are already following Brumley’s lead, saying they “will not follow President Biden’s guidance unless specifically directed to.”

Louisiana has already seen a Catholic school system in Lafayette implement policies that outright ban students from having their LGBTQ identities recognized or affirmed. With Brumley’s recent declaration allowing schools to avoid the Biden administration’s Title IX guidance, some advocates worry that public schools may adopt harsh, anti-LGBTQ policies, such as refusing to acknowledge transgender students’ gender identity or pronouns or barring trans students from using gender-affirming facilities.

Forum for Equality, a New-Orleans-based LGBTQ rights advocacy group, slammed Brumley’s decree in a response posted to their blog.

“Gay and trans kids are some of our most at-risk students, yet our State consistently fails to protect and respect them. In a time when many educators and parents have questions about these topics, Superintendent Brumley failed to provide any answers,” Sarah Jane Guidry, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Rather than ignore or reject a topic that one may not fully understand, like gender identity, we invite Dr. Brumley to meet and learn from LGBTQ+ students about their experiences, concerns and solutions.

“You cannot simply ignore or legislate a kid’s gender identity or sexual orientation,” Guidry concluded. “That is not a solution.”

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