Title IX protects millions of young people, including Title survivors of sexual assault, LGBTQ students, and students experiencing sexual harassment. President-elect Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education, a position that significantly impacts Title IX enforcement. Unfortunately, the GOP Platform and several members of the Senate have expressed intention to rescind and rewrite the guidance clarifying school's obligations under Title IX.
In response, we are asking Ms. DeVos to publicly commit to enforcing Title IX and maintaining important guidance in her confirmation hearing this Wednesday.
Below you will find our asks of Ms. DeVos and the US Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP).
Title IX has been in place since the Civil Rights Act of 1972 — intended to protect all students and ensure that their access to education is not impeded by gender-based violence. In 2011 and 2014 the Department of Education issued key guidance for all educational institutions that receive federal funding clarifying their responsibilities under Title IX.
These outlined and clarified the following responsibilities:
- When a survivor reports that they were assaulted or are being harassed, schools must provide certain accommodations to ensure that they can still go to class, and feel safe on campus, regardless of the outcome of the adjudications process or their involvement with the criminal justice system. This includes providing survivors counseling resources, dorm changes, class changes, and no-contact orders.
Make sure Title IX coordinators don’t have conflicts of interest
This guidance explained that sexual violence (like rape or groping) constitutes sexual harassment and thus is addressed by Title IX
Understand that one instance of sexual violence constitutes a hostile environment that must be addressed by the school
Schools must work to address the ramifications of sexual violence, should it occur
The preponderance of the evidence standard means that campus adjudications processes determine the outcome of a sexual violence case based on whether the assault was more likely than not to have occurred. Courts have long affirmed that the preponderance of the evidence standard is the appropriate standard by which to approve civil rights law.
We deserve to know what schools and/or school districts are under investigation for the violation of Title IX, and we ask Betsy DeVos commit to continuing to release those lists.
Trans students and gender nonconforming students have much higher rates of bullying, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. It's up to schools to protect them and up to the Department of Education to uphold their right to an education.
Dear Ms. Betsy DeVos:
We, like you, ardently believe that every student deserves access to a quality education. As civil and victims rights organizations that work directly with students, we know firsthand how important supportive, respectful, and safe environments are to ensuring that students thrive.
At its core, Title IX exists to help build these environments, by protecting students and ensuring equal educational access. Since 1972, the civil rights statute has broken barriers for millions of girls and women wanting to pursue livelihoods in historically male-dominated fields, including business, law, and the sciences. Despite this progress, gender-based bullying, harassment, and violence remain severe impediments that frequently derail educational and career trajectories. Such violence is commonplace in our schools and on college campuses across the country: one in five of our female college classmates are impacted by sexual violence, and this number is often even higher for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer peers.
It has been long recognized that sexual violence and harassment threaten students’ ability to learn; as a result, courts have long understood Title IX to require schools to prevent this violence—and when it occurs, respond and address its consequences. It makes sense that schools would have this responsibility: they are uniquely positioned to support student survivors—such as by providing an extension on a paper, moving out of a dorm shared with a perpetrator, or providing counseling— and enable these students to stay in school. And, when it comes to reported cases, schools can sanction or suspend perpetrators, which is out of the purview of the criminal legal system. Students, of course, can choose to report to their schools, report to the police, go to both, or to neither at all. The important thing here is that students themselves are able to make the choice on how to move forward—and that schools continue to meet their responsibility of preventing and addressing this violence.
As organizations that work directly with victims every day, we know all too well how regularly schools ignore these responsibilities and sweep rape under the rug, and how this institutional betrayal exacerbates the negative consequences of an assault. We have also witnessed firsthand how the Department of Education’s commitment to educational equity has helped schools comply with Title IX; and we know that its policy guidance has empowered survivors across the country to demand the rights required by it. To build on this work, support survivors, and keep students safe, we strongly urge you to commit during your confirmation hearing to upholding the following:
Maintaining the Department of Education’s guidance documents clarifying schools’ legal responsibilities to prevent and address sexual harassment under Title IX;
Continuing to recognize preponderance of evidence as the appropriate standard of proof in campus sexual harassment investigations;
Maintaining federal transparency in Title IX enforcement by continuing to publish lists of schools under investigation for Title IX violations and those who have claimed religious exemptions allowing them to discriminate against LGBT, pregnant, and parenting students;
Maintaining the Department of Education's 2016 guidance documents clarifying schools’ obligations to protect transgender students.
Every student deserves to attend school without fear of violence. We urge you to make clear during your hearing that you are committed to ensuring that this is a reality.