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Feds hide communications with Soros-funded groups on Title IX and gender identity proposals

Nineteen months later, Department of Education hasn't provided any records or timeline to fulfill Parents Defending Education FOIA request, suit says.

Published: March 1, 2024 11:00pm

Parents aren't just fighting to uncover the influence of gender ideology activists in their children's public schools, but their influence with federal policymakers who stand to upend 50 years of policy on sex discrimination in schools by redefining it to include gender identity.

The Biden administration has neither turned over its communications with activists related to the development of its proposed Title IX regulations in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, nor given any meaningful update in more than a year and a half, a new FOIA lawsuit alleges.

Parents Defending Education said it asked the Department of Education in July 2022 for all correspondence matching certain keywords with the New Venture Fund, Governing for Impact and the National Student Legal Defense Network for the first 18 months of the administration.

The keywords were Title IX and its common regulatory abbreviation “TIX,” as well as LGBT, transgender, gender identity, gender-affirming and gender support plan. 

The latter two refer to policies that treat students according to their stated gender identity, including preferred names and pronouns and access to opposite-sex bathrooms, locker rooms and sports, and related instructions for school staff on how to treat each student, including when to keep gender identity from their parents.

PDE President Nicole Neily said the feds' proposed rules "largely mirrored" GFI and NSLDN recommendations.

GFI received more than $17 million from progressive megadonor George Soros's Open Society Foundations through the nonprofit NVF and 501(c)(4) Sixteen Thirty Fund, both sponsored by dark-money powerhouse Arabella Advisors, from 2019 through 2021. NVF is Arabella's largest entity, according to Inside Philanthropy.

"Refusing to release these documents leaves Americans in the dark about the Department’s coordination with ideological activist groups as it contemplates sweeping regulatory actions that will affect millions of children across the country" and parental rights, PDE said in a statement Wednesday.

"Withholding these documents for fear of retaliation or pressure from third party groups may point to underlying unethical behavior in specific areas of the Department," the group said.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to the promise of Title IX and ensuring all students are guaranteed an education environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex," department spokesperson Jim Bradshaw wrote in an email. "The Department cannot comment on pending litigation."

The feds' proposed rule on gender identity and sports, separate from the long-delayed proposal on gender identity in schools broadly, drew surprising opposition from the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women and girls and its causes and consequences. The U.N. made the letter public last month after the administration ignored it for two months.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also came out against biological males in women's sports last week, calling it consistent with his uncle Ted Kennedy's fight as a Democratic U.S. senator for women's sports.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters told "Just the News, No Noise" the Sooner State would not follow the administration's Title IX regulatory revisions on gender identity in sports and access to intimate spaces in schools if finalized. 

Walters sent a scathing letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona last month calling the proposed transgender sports rule "one of the most illegal, impractical, and discriminatory policies" he has ever seen.

"Your administration’s assault on women’s athletics is shameful and extremely politically unpopular" and would force Oklahoma schools to "spend countless hours designing and implementing a system and policies to determine when – if ever – it can legally separate" basketball, track and field and baseball and softball by sex, the letter says.

The "unconstitutional" Department of Education "has held hostage the educational funding of state educational agencies unless they accept and enforce far-left policies and a regulatory agenda crafted by D.C. bureaucrats," Walters wrote. 

Cardona "conflates gender identity with sex," the explicit focus of Title IX, "to skirt the legislative authority granted to you" and mischaracterizes the Supreme Court's Bostock ruling on gender identity in employment as expanding the definition of sex, the letter says.

PDE's lawsuit says the parental advocacy group narrowed its requested search to 13 offices within the Department of Education and "several dozen individual custodians" of records at the department's request.

Other than granting the group's requested fee waiver, the department's subsequent communications with PDE have been frustratingly vague, the suit says.

The feds denied its request for expedited processing July 26, 2022, without addressing "the substance of PDE’s request or offer[ing] an estimated date of completion," and sent PDE an "initial determination letter" the following month that "contained neither a determination nor an estimate for when one might arrive."

The suit also states an Aug. 12, 2022, letter, the last PDE received from the department, said the department would provide "records on a rolling basis as they become available" without mentioning categories of documents or giving PDE a right to appeal.

Just the News confirmed Friday the 19-month-old request is still "in process" from the department's FOIA portal.

The department has flagrantly exceeded its required time window – 30 days at most, in "unusual circumstances" – for making and communicating a "determination" on whether it will comply with a given request, the suit says. It has also not made a "reasonable effort to search for records" in violation of FOIA.

A Rhode Island school district put up similar hurdles to a parental rights activist who routinely files Access to Public Records Act requests in the Ocean State. 

The activist, Nicole Solas, posted the March 1 response she received from the South Kingstown School Department, demanding more than $6,600 in fees to search through and redact nearly 8,900 emails from its employees to the Southern Poverty Law Center, known for comparing Moms for Liberty to Southern segregationists who harassed children entering integrated schools.

The district told Solas on Feb. 15 that SPLC had not "facilitated" any teacher training but gave her an estimate of nearly $5,000 to search through and redact 6,600 pages of emails with SPLC "related" to teacher training. 

She marveled that "somehow the price is higher" when seeking all communications to SPLC from district employees, not just teacher-training messages. "I'm thinking about" asking for donations to cover the fees, Solas told a commenter.

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