NJ Leads Multistate Defense of Title IX Protections Against Federal Challenge


New Jersey, Multistate Coalition Seek to Stop Other States from Delaying Education Department’s Final Rule Protecting Students

TRENTON, NJ – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) have taken a significant step to defend Title IX, the landmark law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education. In collaboration with California and Pennsylvania, they have filed the first of several amicus briefs in a federal court challenge that threatens the rights of students in schools and colleges nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Education recently issued a new Final Rule, "Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance," which addresses the rollback of Title IX protections related to sexual assault and harassment by the previous administration. This new rule followed a suit by New Jersey and its partners aiming to restore and enhance these protections.

However, a coalition of states, including Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and West Virginia, has sued to block the implementation of this Final Rule. These states seek to revert to the narrower 2020 standards, which did not explicitly protect transgender students and limited the scope of Title IX.

Enough is enough,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We need policies that durably ensure fair and nondiscriminatory treatment of all students nationwide, and do not change with the political winds. We’re thankful for strong federal protections for students against sex discrimination and sexual harassment, and we are proud to continue paving the way to ensure those protections remain intact.

The experiences of New Jersey and our state partners have long demonstrated that school antidiscrimination laws are necessary to protect students from bias and harassment, and to protect student safety and privacy,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “All students deserve protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, no matter where they live.

In the amicus brief filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, the coalition of Attorneys General argue:

  1. The Final Rule’s definitions of sex and sex discrimination align with Title IX’s text and judicial interpretations. The ban on gender identity discrimination against students fulfills Title IX's purpose. Moreover, sex-based harassment does not need to be both severe and pervasive to violate Title IX, countering the plaintiffs' argument. The rule maintains a "severe or pervasive" standard to prevent and stop school-based sexual harassment and ensure equal access to education.
  2. The Final Rule does not violate the Spending Clause of the Constitution. It does not mandate new programs but requires non-discrimination in exchange for Title IX funding.
  3. Implementation of the Final Rule will benefit students nationwide. The prior rule left students of all gender identities less safe. The new rule particularly protects transgender and gender nonconforming students, who are among the most vulnerable in schools.
  4. Reverting to 2020’s narrower standards would impose significant costs on local and state governments due to increased or unaddressed incidents of sexual harassment, leading to financial, health, and societal costs, absenteeism, dropout-related revenue losses, and heightened unemployment and health service costs.

Since 2020, New Jersey, California, and Pennsylvania have led efforts to counter the previous administration's attempts to weaken Title IX, including supporting the U.S. Department of Education's move to reverse the 2020 changes in 2022.

Attorney General Platkin, along with California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry, spearheaded this amicus brief. They were joined by the Attorneys General of Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

This case is being managed by Assistant Section Chief Andrew Yang and Deputy Attorneys General Amanda Morejón, Giancarlo Piccinini, and Lauren Van Driesen, under the supervision of Section Chief Jessica Palmer and Assistant Attorney General David Leit, of the Special Litigation Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group.

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