President Joe Biden will sign two executive orders Monday to ensure his administration keeps its promise to promote gender equality, including an order to evaluate the current policy guidelines for Title IX, the federal civil rights law that upholds gender equity in education.
Administration officials told reporters on a Sunday night call that Biden plans to sign two executive orders, including one that will establish a Gender Policy Council within the Executive Office of the President. The second order will direct the U.S. Department of Education to review existing Title IX guidelines, which regulate sexual assault investigations on K-12 and college campuses, to “ensure consistency with the Biden-Harris administration’s policy that students be guaranteed education free from sexual violence,” an administration official said.
Biden will sign both executive orders on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Given his past policies to combat violence against women and his work to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses, it’s no surprise that the president plans to review the existing Title IX guidelines created under the Trump administration.
Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos implemented a Title IX policy guideline in August that veered far from the law’s original intent and broke from past consensus from both Democratic and Republican presidents. The rule completely reshaped how colleges handle sexual misconduct allegations by speeding up investigations, adding protections for those accused, and allowing schools to skirt responsibility for assaults entirely if they take place off-campus. The policy took heavy guidance from men’s rights activists, who believe there’s a rampant crisis of false rape allegations against men. It also made it harder for survivors of sexual violence to report harassment and assault by narrowing the definition of sexual misconduct and limiting who a victim can report to.
DeVos and the Department of Education are facing several lawsuits from advocacy groups claiming that the guidance is discriminatory and goes against Congress’ original intent for Title IX.
An administration official emphasized on Sunday’s call that although the work will be on the Department of Education once the order is signed, the Title IX policy guarantees an educational environment that’s free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including in the form of sexual harassment or violence.
While the Title IX executive order is a step in the right direction for students, the work to undo DeVos’ damaging Title IX rule could take years. Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for education secretary, will have his work cut out for him.
The other executive order establishes a Gender Policy Council, which will have an “explicit role” in both domestic and foreign policy, administration officials said Sunday night. The council, which will have a staff of six people, will create and submit a strategy to Biden to address gender in policies, programs and budgets, as well as create an annual report that measures progress. The council will focus on systemic bias and discrimination, sexual harassment and misconduct, women’s economic security in the labor force — especially in the wake of COVID-19 — and comprehensive health care, among other issues.
An executive council devoted to gender equality and equity is not new. Under the Obama administration, the White House Council on Women and Girls ensured that women’s issues were addressed in policy. Administration officials said the name change from the White House Council on Women and Girls to the Gender Policy Council was intentional to “reflect the fact that gender discrimination can happen to people of all genders.” The council will address inequalities for people of all genders, including genderqueer and transgender people as well as boys and men, with a particular focus on women and girls, especially women and girls of color.