Title IX


In April 2024, the U.S. Department of Education published a final rule that updates Title IX regulations to clarify legal protections for LGBTQI+ students, survivors of sexual assault, and pregnant and parenting students. These Title IX updates strengthen the legal rights of LGBTQI+ students to challenge discriminatory practices and encourage school districts to adopt more inclusive policies to ensure compliance with federal law. This webpage answers key questions about how Title IX protects LGBTQI+ students and includes GLSEN resources that will support you in rising up for LGBTQI+ youth and fighting for safer and more affirming learning environments.

If you have any questions about the information on this webpage, please reach out to policy@glsen.org.

Share the News

This is a big deal: for the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Education has published regulations that specify LGBTQI+ people are protected from discrimination in schools on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. For decades, GLSEN has documented the persistently high rates of harassment, bullying, and assault faced by LGBTQI+ youth. Increased public awareness about these clearer legal protections is an important step in pushing forward a vision of safer and more inclusive schools.

How do the 2024 updates clarify the rights of LGBTQI+ students?

In the final rule, the U.S. Department of Education includes three major revisions that impact LGBTQI+ students:

  1. clarifying that sex-based discrimination prohibited by Title IX is inclusive of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. The inclusion of language about sex characteristics is particularly critical for ensuring that intersex people are protected by Title IX.
  2. clarifying that Title IX prohibits sex-based harassment, instead of only sexual harassment. This is particularly critical for ensuring that verbal and physical harassment of LGBTQI+ students is addressed.
  3. clarifying that sex-separated programs and activities - including bathrooms, locker rooms, overnight accommodations, and sex education classes - cannot exclude a person from a space consistent with their gender identity.

Why is it important that Title IX is clarified to protect LGBTQI+ youth?

In GLSEN’s 2021 National School Climate Survey, 83% of LGBTQI+ youth reported facing harassment, bullying, discrimination, or assault in K-12 school settings. However, 62% of those students who faced such victimization never reported an incident to school staff, largely because they lacked confidence that school staff would have an effective response or feared that school staff would out them to their parents. Even when students do report incidents to staff, the school’s response is not often effective: 60% of complaints were ignored, 16% of victims were told to modify their own behavior, and 7% were disciplined for being the victim of their own harassment.

LGBTQI+ youth are also disproportionately affected by discriminatory school policies and discipline from school staff. 25% of LGBTQI+ students are disciplined for public displays of affection when their straight/cisgender peers are not. Transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive youth face challenges with being affirmed in the classroom, with 53% of transgender students being prevented from using their self-identified name and pronouns.

Why is it important that the Title IX regulations allow students to access sex-separated spaces consistent with their gender identity?

Transgender and nonbinary students have faced discriminatory policies and harassment from both peers and school staff that inhibit use of sex-separated spaces that are consistent with their gender identity. 68% of transgender students and 45% of nonbinary students reported being denied access to bathrooms. When students are denied access to sex-separated spaces consistent with their gender identity, they face increased risk of bullying, harassment, and assault. As a result, many transgender and nonbinary students avoid sex-separated spaces such as bathrooms, damaging students’ physical and physiological health. As only 37% of transgender and nonbinary students report attending a school with gender-neutral bathrooms, avoidance of sex-separated spaces could mean that a student goes the entire school day without being able to use the bathroom. Similarly, 71% of transgender students and 43% of nonbinary students were kept from using locker rooms that were consistent with their gender identity. Other sex-separated spaces include overnight accommodations for school trips, physical education classes, and sex education classes.

“I feel like my 11-year-old kid has a great support system at home, but it’s scary to send them out into the world because you don’t know if they are getting the same treatment. We worry about what teacher they will have this year and if they’ll be supportive. There are three or four people who will stick up for my kiddo and that’s important because school is the other place my kid spends most of their time. If the student doesn’t feel safe or seen, then there is no learning.”
- Hailey, parent of a nonbinary child in Salt Lake City, Utah

How has the U.S. Department of Education interpreted Title IX to apply to LGBTQI+ students?

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has resolved complaints that demonstrate the various ways LGBTQI+ students face discrimination. In 2022, a school district in Pennsylvania revised its dress code after a male student was prohibited from wearing an earring. In spring 2023, a school district in Georgia was investigated for failing to respond to student complaints about removal of books by LGBTQI+ authors, authors of color, and women from the school library, which contributed to a hostile learning environment. In fall 2023, a college in California was found to violate Title IX when employees repeatedly and intentionally referred to a student by the incorrect pronouns and name.

How do these updates apply to school sports and athletics programs?

The updates to Title IX make clear that sex-based discrimination - including discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex characteristics - is a violation of federal law. Even still, 25 state governments have moved to limit transgender, nonbinary, and intersex student participation in school sports. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest asserting that categorical bans of transgender students in school sports likely violate Title IX and a federal appeals court ruled in 2024 that West Virginia’s ban violated the Title IX rights of a transgender student. In mid-2023, the U.S. Department of Education started a separate rulemaking to consider updates to Title IX in the context of athletics. Even as the Department considers this further rulemaking, Title IX should be enforced to invalidate discriminatory policies, consistent with the reasoning of the Fourth Circuit’s decision, and ensure all students - including LGBTQI+ students - have equitable access to educational opportunity throughout the entirety of the school experience.

How can I share the news so that all LGBTQI+ youth know they are protected?

The updates to Title IX clarify LGBTQI+ students’ rights and, if robustly enforced, can make significant strides in addressing the persistent bullying and harassment faced by LGBTQI+ students. This social media toolkit provides guidance on how to share the news with your networks, but it will take sustained effort to ensure every generation of students knows and asserts their legal rights to ensure learning environments free from discrimination. If you have further questions about how to spread the word about Title IX’s protections, please reach out to policy@glsen.org.

Know Your Rights

LGBTQI+ students have legal rights to ensure that they can learn in an environment free from discrimination. Although schools should work collaboratively with students to build positive learning environments, some students may have to seek relief through an administrative process (such as filing a Title IX complaint) or even in the courts. For more information about legal protections in school, GLSEN and other leading LGBTQI+ rights organizations have published know-your-rights resources for students and for educators.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law that was passed in 1972 to prohibit sex-based discrimination in schools. The law reads that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX applies to schools that receive federal funding (including all school-sponsored programming such as athletics, field trips, and afterschool clubs), local and state education agencies, and other institutions that receive federal financial assistance.

Who is protected by Title IX?

Title IX requires that “no person” be subjected to sex-based discrimination in school. Anyone who interacts with a school, including students, educators, school staff, and parents and guardians, can file a Title IX claim.

Who enforces Title IX?

There are multiple avenues for filing complaints under Title IX:

  • Title IX requires that schools must publish a nondiscrimination statement and provide procedures to file complaints. Each school district should have a staff member designated as the Title IX Coordinator to oversee complaint processes.
  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights conducts Title IX investigations based on complaints filed directly with them (including online). In 2020-2021, 40% of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education alleged discrimination on the basis of sex and an additional 19% alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Title IX has a private right to action that can be enforced in federal court, meaning that you can file a lawsuit to assert your Title IX rights.

How can I file a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education?

Anyone can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, even if you are not the direct victim of the alleged discrimination. Complaints should be filed within 180 days of the most recent discriminatory action. Complaints can be filed here using the Department’s online form or can be submitted through email, mail, or fax. Find more information about how to file a Title IX complaint here.

Do I need a lawyer to file a Title IX complaint?

No. Anyone can file a Title IX complaint, even if they are not the direct victim of unlawful harassment or discrimination. GLSEN is not a legal services organization, but there are legal helplines at partner organizations if you’d like to discuss potential claims:

What happens if Title IX conflicts with my state law or school district’s policy?

Federal law preempts state law and school district policies. When state law or district policy conflicts with a school’s obligations under Title IX, Title IX will override that state policy to safeguard a person’s civil rights. Even if a district policy complies with state law, a district that violates Title IX may be sued or investigated and be required to compensate victims or change its policies.

Even though this doctrine of preemption is well established, states may seek to maintain their discriminatory laws or policies by delaying updates until they are challenged by members of the school community or outright challenging Title IX’s applicability in court. It may take time and sustained action for LGBTQI+ students to fully realize their legal rights under Title IX.

“We’ve seen an increase in students using anti-LGBTQI+ language and harassing LGBTQ+ students, who may be emboldened by the national rhetoric. Many victims decide to file with the Department of Education because state actors have no will and make local school districts ineffective at addressing anti-LGBTQI+ victimization.”
- Stacy, K-12 educator in Des Moines, Iowa

Is Title IX the only law that protects LGBTQI+ students?

Title IX is the most comprehensive law to address sex-based discrimination in schools, but there are other laws that may protect the rights of LGBTQI+ students. The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits state actors, like schools, from drawing unfair distinctions between similarly situated students. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) safeguards the right of families to amend student records and maintain the privacy of students records from the broader school community. The Equal Access Act ensures that most schools provide equal access to extracurricular student clubs, such as GSAs. State law may also extend further rights to LGBTQI+ students.

Raise Your Voice

Clearer Title IX protections for LGBTQI+ students is only one part of the broader effort to create safer and more inclusive learning environments. It will take sustained advocacy across the school community to ensure that every child has equitable access to educational opportunity. As the Title IX clarifications are implemented, your voice can play a role at every level of decisionmaking to update policies and improve practices so that LGBTQI+ students can learn in an environment free from harassment or discrimination.

How can I take action to reach out to legislators?

Although legislators do not directly implement education policy, they can play an important role in setting parameters for how schools can enforce protections for LGBTQI+ students. If you live in the 50 states, you have three federal legislators that represent you in Congress - one representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and two U.S. senators. You also have a Governor and state legislators that represent you in your state government. As Title IX updates take effect, GLSEN has an action alert so that you can easily reach out to these decisionmakers at the federal and state level to call for LGBTQI+-inclusive policies in K-12 schools.

How can I take action at a local level?

School boards and school administrators can take action to update or implement policies that are inclusive of LGBTQI+ students. School boards will generally meet at a routine pace - either monthly or quarterly - and their meetings are open to the public. This is a prime opportunity to gain clarity about whether school district policies are inclusive of LGBTQI+ students and encourage adoption of improved policies, especially if you’re working in concert with other parents, community members, or local chapters/organizations. GLSEN has a checklist resource and model policies that can help you work with school boards to adopt stronger policies at the local level.

Working directly with school administrators, educators, and school board members can also enhance efforts to create safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQI+ youth. You can ask school and district leaders to:

  • have GLSEN deliver professional development to educators and staff
  • receive free LGBTQI+ affirming K-12 books through GLSEN’s Rainbow Library
  • teach GLSEN’s free elementary lessons during ELA or social studies classes
  • expand access to inclusive gender-neutral facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, including through policy change and advocacy during infrastructure improvements

Where else can I speak out to support inclusive school policies?

Federal and state agencies also implement education policy and often set the parameters for the policies that can be set by local school districts. The U.S. Department of Education is the federal agency responsible for education policy, and its Office for Civil Rights is responsible for investigating claims of discrimination (see above). State education agencies - which include State Boards of Education and State Departments of Education - also set standards for local school districts and even publish model policies and curriculum that schools may widely adopt. Similar to how you can reach out to the Governor’s office, it is important to engage state government officials to ensure that they are taking action to build inclusive school environments for LGBTQI+ students. GLSEN has a checklist resource and model policies that can help you work with your state education agency to ensure that local school districts are equipped with the tools they need to effectively support LGBTQI+ youth.

What if I have more questions about how to engage?

GLSEN is here to support your work to organize and mobilize community support to advocate for safe and inclusive schools. Please reach out to policy@glsen.org with any further questions.