BLOG: Joe Biden’s Great White Shark

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Any kid growing up the mid-1970s will never forget the summer when the movie Jaws was released and became America’s top-grossing movie. As everyone knows, the film features a 25-foot, three-ton, man-eating great white shark that terrorizes a beach community and the effort to put down the beast by the local sheriff, Martin Brody, and shark hunter, Captain Quint (played by the late great, underrated Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw, respectively). The film became a sensation that permeated every cranny of pop culture for months. A few years later, Jaws unfortunately birthed the inevitable sequel, the cleverly titled Jaws II, a truly terrible movie that had one redeeming quality, one of the best tag lines in movie history: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” Unforgettable.

I could not help but think of that overused line over the weekend as DFI submitted its comments to the Biden Education Department’s proposed Title IX regulations, a dreadful sequel to the groundbreaking regulations published in 2020 by then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Naturally, just when students and faculty thought it was safe to go back in the Title IX waters, Biden and his hard left allies want to kill the DeVos Title IX reforms.  But it’s important to understand what’s at play here. Biden and his progressive allies aren’t just making changes that kill Secretary DeVos’s due process reforms.  They’re using the Title IX regulatory process as a vehicle to effect radical cultural and social change in American society. By commandeering Title IX, progressives seek to force all educational institutions that receive federal funds to heed their far-left ideological agenda on issues of gender identity, the rights of parents in education, campus free speech and academic freedom, religious liberty, and abortion. Although it is no secret that some educational institutions are already working to this end, the Biden rule would give these efforts the force of law.  This changes the landscape remarkably.

It’s hard to understate the profoundly militant nature of Biden’s proposed rule and how it mutilates Title IX, a law expressly meant to protect educational opportunities, particularly in athletics, for women and girls based on their biological sex. Biden’s proposal is a mutation of Title IX unimagined in 1972, when Congress passed and President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law. Biden serves his ideological masters in four important ways beyond issues of due process (although there is much more to this proposed rule than these four).   

First, Biden wants to change the meaning of sex by expanding the scope of “discrimination on the basis of sex” under Title IX to include discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.” This change will require schools, colleges, and universities to allow biological males who identify as females to use female restrooms and locker rooms and to compete in women’s and girls’ sports.  It will also direct K-12 schools to affirm a child’s gender identity regardless of biological sex, without requiring the approval of or notification to the child’s parents. Female athletes and parents are totally sidelined under the Biden proposal.

Second, Biden seeks to widen the definition of sex-based harassment under Title IX so broadly that it will require school officials to police and punish the use of pronouns, as well as allow colleges and universities to twist Title IX into a de facto campus speech code that cancels debate, shuts down free speech and classroom discussion, and severely erodes academic freedom.

Third, Biden wants to turn the Title IX coordinators into “Campus Commissars” by forcing them to monitor day and night the conduct and speech of students, faculty, and staff while constantly acting as roving patrolman looking for violations under the proposed regulations. Rather than simply allow for the Title IX coordinator to receive and act on complaints filed by persons alleging violations of Title IX, Biden’s Stasi-like rule also turns nearly every school employee into an informant, as it requires them to notify the coordinator when that employee has information about conduct that “may” constitute discrimination based on sex (and also gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual characteristics, or sexual stereotyping).   

Finally, despite Title IX’s abortion neutrality provision, Biden is laying the groundwork to make abortion a civil right under Title IX. In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Constitution does not protect a right to abortion, the left is clearly employing a new tactic—abortion as a statutory civil right. Biden’s rule directs schools to make “reasonable modifications for students because of pregnancy or related conditions”. There is nothing in the text of the proposed rule that prevents ED at some future date from forcing institutions to provide abortion counseling and services to a student as a “reasonable modification” “because of pregnancy or related conditions.”

The Biden Title IX proposal is the spearhead of an effort to use Federal executive power to remake American education and, through it, American society and culture. Once finalized, other federal agencies will come along and promulgate Title IX regulations that mimic ED’s rule (such as the USDA and school lunch programs). This is an issue that cries out for Congressional intervention.

We all remember another famous line from the Jaws movies. Upon unexpectedly seeing the great white for the first time at sea, a stunned Brody silently walks back to Quint and utters in disbelief, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” To hunt Biden’s Title IX shark, we need a bigger boat.  Time for Congress to jump in the water. November 2022 cannot come soon enough.

This blog was adapted from an article originally written by Robert S. Eitel and published in National Review.