Debate over whether to allow transgender students to participate in K-12 and college sports has resulted in more than 150,000 comments flooding the Education Department ahead of its Monday comment period deadline.
As reported by USA Today, the department's proposed rule would allow schools to ban trans and nonbinary students from participating in sports on a case-by-case basis, infuriating participation advocates participation who worry that leaves too much room to discriminate against students. Meanwhile, the fact that transgender individuals would be allowed to join the swim, wrestling or football teams that align with their gender identity in any scenario per the proposal enraged others.
"As the mother of a teenaged, biological female, it is obvious that biological males should not compete with biological females," one commenter wrote, as reported by Kayla Jimenez of USA Today. "They should never be in the same locker room or restroom."
Others took the position that "transgender youth, just like all youth, simply want to participate in the same educational activities as their peers, including athletics."
The Education Department has said it is trying to find middle ground that allows for both inclusion and fair competition. It encourages schools to consider the grade or education level of the individual when making a final determination, and it expects high school and college sports to be more limiting of transgender students' participation than elementary schools.
“Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination," U.S. Department of Education secretary Miguel Cardona said in April as details of the proposal were released.
Any federal rule would trump the nearly two dozen state-level bans that have already taken hold, though some of those have already been frozen. by the courts. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a Republican-backed measure banning transgender girls and women from school sports participation.
"Advocates for transgender students have applauded the Biden administration for being well-intentioned, yet largely have critiqued the proposal, arguing it doesn't go far enough to ensure transgender students are protected from discrimination on athletic teams," Jimenez wrote. "Some of them have said the wiggle room schools have could further increase discrimination. Others questioned how schools will be held accountable for how they implement the rules."