Over the last several years, survivors, activists, and allies have mobilized to advocate for protecting students’ civil rights and ending sexual violence in schools. By calling for action from our communities and representatives we were able to reform state laws, improve school responses to sexual assault, and ultimately made a major culture shift.
Before the new administration entered the White House, survivors were reasonably concerned about the cultural and legal implications of having an administration that has refused to commit to protecting survivors and a president accused of perpetrating sexual violence. Still, survivors refused to stand on the sidelines to wait and see what would happen next. Instead, we rallied and created the #DearBetsy campaign to ask the then-nominee for the US Department of Education Secretary to commit to upholding Title IX and its guidance.
Now, the Trump Administration has indicated mass rollbacks of vulnerable students’ civil rights protections. This began when the 2016 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) guidance, which protected transgender students, was rescinded in February. US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson want to continue this trend of revoking vulnerable students’ civil rights by rescinding the 2011 DCL. This directly undermines the tremendous progress we’ve made and ultimately harms survivors in our schools.
For decades, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) role has been to provide trauma-informed, evidence-based guidance in order to ensure discrimination-free education for all students. Rescinding existing guidance would be a direct threat to survivors’ civil rights and would counter its mission, “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools.”
Without guidance, survivors will lose services that help them stay in school after being assaulted. LGBTQ students, students of color, students with disabilities, and other marginalized students will be harmed the most if guidance is revoked. Additionally, rescinding 2011 DCL under the veil of protecting the rights of the accused is false and deeply misguided, as doing so will repeal protections for both parties, including accused students. All students are worth protecting and every student deserves to experience an education free of sexual violence. Rolling back guidance could give preference to accused students given at the expense of survivors’ rights.
We will not allow the Trump administration to continue hurting survivors of sexual violence. We ask Secretary Betsy DeVos and Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson to commit to preserving current Title IX guidance, programs, and policies. We ask legislators to ensure that policy decisions are based on evidence and trauma-informed. We ask university officials to commit to maintaining trauma-informed best practices in schools. To survivors, activists, and allies, we believe you and support you. Survivors everywhere have refused to be silent since this administration began its journey to the White House. We refuse to back down now and we demand our voices be heard.
CHARDONNAY MADKINS (pronouns: she/her/hers)is a womanist and activist serving the Los Angeles area. She received her Bachelor's of Arts degree in Psychology and Urban & Environmental Policy from Occidental College. As one of the few black women leaders on Occidental's campus, Chardonnay Madkins played a prominent role in the institution's Black Student Alliance and also co-founded the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition, where she shed light on issues involving survivors of color and mobilized students and faculty to demand administrators appropriately handle sexual assault cases. She dedicates her time advocating specifically for Black survivors and changing policies around sexual assault. She maintains a passion for knowledge and aspires to continue her education of human rights and womanist politics in order to give voice to the voiceless.
You can reach Chardonnay at firstname.lastname@example.org