A new initiative to cut off school lunch funds for schools that deviate from federally-backed transgender policy in classrooms has South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem threatening a lawsuit.
Weeks after the United States Department of Agriculture proposed new rules that would choke dollars from public schools that prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports or using gender-designated bathrooms of their choice, the first-term Republican governor Thursday vowed to resist the measure with litigation.
“President Biden is holding lunch money for poor Americans hostage in pursuit of his radical agenda. He is insisting that we allow biological males to compete in girls’ sports or else lose funding for SNAP and school lunch programs,” Noem said in a statement sent to the Argus Leader. “South Dakota will continue to defend basic fairness so that our girls can compete and achieve."
In early May, the USDA announced that K-12 schools would be at risk of losing federal funding for free-and-reduced price meal programming if they do not adhere to federal LGBTQ+ inclusivity policies. The USDA spends more than $14 billion through what's known as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) annually, a program that feeds more than 29 million children in the United States each day.
“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity,” U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement when the proposed rule was announced. “A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form—including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face."
While Noem is threatening a lawsuit, there's no standing for a court intervention until the proposed USDA rules for public schools are finalized. A public comment and rules review period are underway.
Still, this isn't the first time Noem has threatened litigation against federal regulations before they were finalized. Last year, when the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an order requiring large employers institute vaccine mandates, she also took to social media to say "See you in court” in a barb at United States President Joe Biden.
Noem is speculated to be angling for national political attention in the 2024 presidential race.