January 25, 2021

Volume XI, Number 25


January 22, 2021

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Department of Education Final Rule Covers Four Key Areas

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a final rule ("Final Rule") meant to clarify policies regarding freedom of speech, academic freedom, and Title IX exemptions.  

The Final Rule does four things:

  1. Implements Executive Order 13864, Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities, which compels institutions receiving federal funds to abide by the ideas set forth in the First Amendment as well as the institution’s own policies on freedom of speech and academic freedom. Penalties for violations could result in a litany of consequences, up to and including loss of funds or debarment.  

  2. Clarifies how an institution demonstrates that it is controlled by a religious organization for purpose of Title IX exemptions. Some schools are already exempt from Title IX, but the Final Rule sheds some light on exactly how the DOE defines “controlled by a religious organization.” Click here to view the list of exemption criteria.    

  3. Levels the playing field for all student organizations by prohibiting discrimination regardless of beliefs, policies, or membership and leadership standards. The Final Rule opens the door for all organizations at public institutions to have equal access to privileges such as facilities and student fee funds.  

  4. Aligns rules surrounding the use of development grants under Title III and V of the Higher Education Act of 1964 more closely with the First Amendment and other federal regulations. The Final Rule prohibits these grants from being used for religious instruction, worship, or proselytization. It also streamlines the definition of “school or department of divinity” to cover an institution (or one of its departments) whose mission is to prepare students for work in ministry or other religious vocation.  

© Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 262



About this Author

Jim Newberry, Government Relations, Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm

Jim Newberry focuses his practice in the areas of higher education, government relations, and regulatory matters.  He recently served as Mayor of Lexington and has extensive leadership experience in the equine industry, legal service industry, state government and higher education.  Mr. Newberry is leader of the firm's Higher Education Team and serves as the Managing Member of the firm's Louisville, Kentucky office.

(859) 219-8226
Jacqueline Ha Regulation Attorney Steptoe Johnson

Jackie Ha is an attorney with an eye for detail and a drive to find original solutions for her clients. Utilizing her degrees in philosophy and psychology, Ha uses a combination of logic and instinct to effectively understand her clients’ business goals while also appreciating the “people” side of client relationships. Ha focuses her practice in the areas of higher education law, business transactions, and regulatory and economic development.

As a proud lifelong resident of Louisville, Kentucky, Ha enjoys being an active member of her community.

(502) 423-2032