Suzanne Eckes speaks about lawsuits over transgender students’ rights, educator free speech in several media outlets

School of Education faculty member Suzanne Eckes recently lent her expertise on legal challenges related to transgender students’ rights and educators’ free speech in articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Chalkbeat, and The Washington Post. 

Eckes is the Susan S. Engeleiter Chair in Education Law, Policy, and Practice in the UW–Madison School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. 


The Chronicle of Higher Education story outlined continued political conflict across the country over transgender students’ rights as the Biden administration has proposed including gender identity and sexual orientation in regulations interpreting Title IX. The change, which is not yet final, would put anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals in federal law. 

In the article, Eckes pointed out the change will have more legal power than previous, similar actions taken by the Obama administration. However, she pointed out many states will likely file lawsuits against the policy as soon as it is finalized. 

The story in Chalkbeat focused on separate guidance from the Biden administration specifically focused on transgender students’ involvement in school sports. Eckes said the guidance isn’t likely to apply in the same way across a student’s entire academic career. 

“It seems like there would be some clarity on the elementary school level, like let’s not ban third graders from playing on a soccer team,” Eckes said. “At the high school level, we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

She noted the matter could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court — and likely wouldn’t be settled until then. 

The Washington Post article focused on legal challenges to state laws that limit how teachers can talk about things like race, gender, and sexuality in the classroom. In the article, Eckes said it will be difficult to knock down those laws in state courts by arguing they infringe on teachers’ academic freedom, because such freedom hasn’t been confirmed in previous court decisions.  

“Historically, courts have deferred to the states and to local school districts in determining what is going to be taught in the curriculum,” she said.

The Chronicle of Higher Education article is available here.

The Chalkbeat article is available here

The Washington Post article is available here.

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