State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley is telling local school leaders they are under no obligation to implement a proposal by the Biden administration that could expand transgender students' access to sports teams and bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
The Biden administration in June proposed a major expansion of Title IX to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The law prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
Brumley said he has been asked about the issue after the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture "prematurely" issued guidelines that dovetailed with President Joe Biden's executive order, which is in the public comment phase.
In a message sent Tuesday to local school leaders, school board members and the state athletics association, the superintendent said he does not agree with the proposed changes and does not view them as enforceable at this stage.
"Therefore, school systems should not alter their local policies or procedures based solely on these overreaching guidance documents," Brumley wrote.
He also noted that the Legislature earlier this year enacted a law that would bar transgender athletes from competing in girls and women's sports.
Gov. John Bel Edwards let the measure become law without his signature after vetoing a similar bill last year.
"It was overwhelmingly passed by our Legislature," Brumley wrote of the law. "It affirms school-sanctioned athletic participation must be divided by biological sex unless the configuration is co-ed in nature."
A "fact sheet" issued by the U.S. Department of Education said the changes "would clarify that Title IX's prohibition on discrimination based on sex applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
The agency said it plans to release a separate notice on how regulations should be adjusted for athletic teams. The proposed rules were posted on July 12 for a 60-day public comment period.
Mike Faulk, executive director for the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said Wednesday he has not gotten feedback from superintendents on the issue.
Faulk noted that the transgender measure passed by lopsided margins in the Legislature.
Jodi Rollins, a mother of two who lives in Prairieville and is active on education issues, criticized Brumley's message and said it may inadvertently suggest that school officials can ignore federal law.
"There is a lot of vagueness in that letter," Rollins said. "It seems to me he is pandering to a certain group."
The Louisiana School Boards Association did not respond to a request for comment.
Brumley's letter marks the second time he has criticized plans to expand Title IX, which turned 50 earlier this year. He asked federal officials in July whether Louisiana would face financial penalties if it does not agree to open bathrooms and sports teams to transgender students.
The superintendent said the proposed changes raised the specter of Louisiana losing dollars for free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches, which applies to around 70% of students statewide.
Brumley said he got a written response a few weeks ago that did little to clarify the issues. He also said he believes a majority of state residents agree with his views.