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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

State officials challenge expanded school discrimination protections

A screen capture from a March 30, 2020 video update from State Schools Superintendent Elsie Arntzen.
A screen capture from a March 30, 2020 video update from State Schools Superintendent Elsie Arntzen.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is suing the Biden Administration over its proposal to broaden protections against discrimination in education. State superintendent Elsie Arntzen is also pushing back.

The rule change would expand protections under Title IX to include discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, in addition to existing protections against sex discrimination.

Speaking outside the state Capitol on May 1, Arntzen called the Title IX changes “unconstitutional.”

“This extreme and illegal redefinition of biological sex is an attack on our families, an attack on our God-given rights and an attack on the great state of Montana,” Arntzen said.

Arntzen sent a letter to public school administrators asking that they not alter their existing Title IX policies in late April. The rules are not scheduled to take effect until August 1.

Attorney General Knudsen is one of 15 Republican state attorneys general suing over the policy. Knudsen’s suit said the rule change “drives a dagger through the heart of Title IX’s mandate” by including protections for gender identity. The suit calls that term “wildly ambiguous.”

Knudsen is seeking a second term as state attorney general and Arntzen is running in a competitive GOP primary for Montana’s eastern congressional district.

Montana’s public universities appear poised to comply with the rule change if it goes into effect. Commissioner of Higher Education spokesperson Galen Hollenbaugh said in an email the office is monitoring legal challenges and will “determine the necessary steps to keep the Montana University System in compliance” if the rules are adopted.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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