News & Insight


By: Debbie Osgood and Linh T. Nguyen

In a press release and letter issued earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has outlined its approach to implementing President Biden’s March 8, 2021 Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The Executive Order—which followed a similar January 20, 2021 Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation—directed the Secretary of Education to review and propose policy changes related to discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. Specifically, the Executive Order fulfills a campaign promise made by President Biden to rewrite Title IX regulations promulgated by the Trump Administration under then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. For an overview of those regulations, please visit our Title IX Compliance webpage.

OCR will conduct a comprehensive review of the Title IX regulations, which will include:

  • Holding a public hearing (to be scheduled) that will enable schools and other interested parties to provide oral and written comments “on the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”;
  • Issuing a question-and-answer document in the coming months “to provide additional clarity about how OCR interprets schools’ existing obligations under the 2020 amendments”; and
  • Issuing a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the Title IX regulations. For this part, OCR indicated that it “anticipates” issuing this notice.

OCR’s Acting Assistant Secretary states in the letter that: “Throughout this process, the Office for Civil Rights will be guided by our responsibility to ensure that schools are providing appropriate support for students who have experienced sexual harassment, including sexual violence, and that school procedures are fair and equitable for all parties and cognizant of the sensitive issues that are often involved.” This responsibility includes ensuring that “that students who have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity have their legal rights fully met.” This serves as an important development in the expansion of OCR’s jurisdiction to include investigating claims of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, including issues relating to facilities.

HMBR is available to provide specific advice on how this regulatory development may affect your campus policies and procedures or to provide other assistance, including drafting oral and written comments. Should you like assistance, please contact Debbie Osgood or Linh Nguyen at 312-946-1800.


  Apr 7, 2021  |  By    |   On Compliance - Title IX