Federal School Nutrition Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA) issued new guidance that required all schools that participated in the federal school nutrition program to provide notice and post flyers that detailed their obligations regarding sexual orientation/gender identity. If schools were to use their religious exemption, they had first to submit a written request to DOA, citing explicit reasons, and wait for approval before acting on the exemption.

However, there is no statutory authority for an agency to require a request or to grant an exemption: the religious institution has only to claim its exemption, not request it.

This August, responding to a great deal of advocacy by faith-based groups and a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a Christian school in Florida, the UDSA agreed to revise its regulations.

The revision says:

  • “USDA regulations do not require a religious educational institution to submit a written request for a Title IX exemption in order to claim that exemption.”
  • The DOA advises: “Those that have neither sought nor received prior written assurance from USDA may still invoke their exemption after USDA receives a Title IX discrimination complaint or initiates Title IX compliance efforts.”