CASPER — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder “strongly maintains” that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s update of its non-discrimination policies “have forced states to comply with the Biden Administrations agenda,” according to a Wednesday statement from the Wyoming Department of Education.
“Superintendent Schroeder strongly objects to this latest example of federal overreach — and will continue to lead Wyoming’s effort to push back against Washington D.C.,” the statement says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced May 5 that it would reinterpret the prohibition of discrimination based on sex in Title IX and in the 2008 Food and Nutrition Act to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The USDA’s announcement didn’t come out of the blue. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In January, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” The order directs government agencies to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” and consider changing them if they don’t align with the amended protections under Title VII.
The USDA’s policy change means that any organization that gets money from the Food and Nutrition Service has to “investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation” and “update their non-discrimination policies and signage to include prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” the USDA statement says.
On Friday, nearly a month after the USDA announcement, Schroeder denounced the USDA changes in a statement released by the state Department of Education, saying that the reinterpretation of its non-discrimination policies is part of the federal government’s “ever-relentless agenda of social engineering.”
It’s not clear why Schroeder suddenly made the announcement. Wyoming Department of Education spokesperson Linda Finnerty said in a Monday email that the department didn’t have further comment about this at the time.
Schroeder implied that the reinterpretation could impact funding for student meals if schools don’t comply with the updated non-discrimination policy.
“I only hope that ‘We the People’ have the stomach to stand up to it, because it won’t stop until the people say ‘enough,’” he said in the Friday statement.
The Department of Education statement from Wednesday says that Schroeder and the department will “proceed with caution and prudence going forward” to “maintain the flow of federal funds to support children in Wyoming.”
It also calls for action from the Legislature:
“Until the Wyoming Legislature takes substantive action to allocate state funds to cover the numerous federally-funded programs in Wyoming, the (Wyoming Department of Education) has little choice but to work within the framework mandated by politicians in Washington D.C.”
The Wyoming Education Association, Wyoming Equality, the Equality State Policy Center and ACLU Wyoming issued a joint statement on Wednesday in response to Schroeder’s denouncement.
“‘We the People’ must stand up and say ‘enough,’” the statement said. “Enough discrimination. Enough politicking at the cost of our kids’ wellbeing, safety, and lives.”
“We won’t stand for anything less than safe, welcoming public schools that encourage all students to learn, grow, and thrive.”