Regulatory policy

SD Governor Noem threatens to sue over trans-inclusive school canteen policy

A new initiative to cut school lunch funds for schools that deviate from the federally-backed transgender policy in classrooms has prompted South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem to threaten lawsuits.

The dispute comes after new rules, proposed by the US Department of Agriculture, that would stop sending money to public schools that prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports or using a bathroom of their choice.

“President Biden is holding lunch money for poor Americans hostage in pursuit of his radical agenda,” Noem said in a statement sent to the Argus frontman.

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In early May, the USDA announced that K-12 schools would risk losing federal funding for free and reduced-price lunch programs if they fail to follow federal LGBTQ+ inclusion policies. The USDA spends more than $14 billion each year through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a program that feeds more than 29 million children in the United States every day.

“The USDA is committed to administering all of its programs with fairness and equity, and to serving those in need with the highest dignity,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement at the meeting. announcement of the proposed rule. “A key step in promoting these principles is to eradicate discrimination in all its forms, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with a means to speak out against any discrimination they face.”

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Local high school students pose with transgender pride flags, posters and the non-binary pride flag at Van Eps Park after the "Protect Kids Trans Gathering" in Sioux Falls on Sunday afternoon January 16, 2022 in support of transgender rights.

While Noem threatens to take legal action, there is no need to intervene in court until the USDA’s proposed rules for public schools are finalized. A period of public consultation and review of the rules is underway.

Still, this isn’t the first time Noem has threatened to sue federal regulations before they’re finalized. Last year, when the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an order requiring large employers to institute vaccination mandates, it also took to social media to say “See you soon at court” in a beard to President Joe Biden.

Noem is expected to grab national political attention in the 2024 presidential race.