Statement on Betsy DeVos’ Decision to Release the Dangerous Title IX Regulations During a Public Health Crisis


I am a survivor of college sexual assault who struggled to graduate because of the trauma I experienced, not only by my assaulter, but also by my school. The trauma I endured was already enough prior to these proposed changes. The goal of these regulations should be to bring justice and healing not to re-open trauma and attack survivors.”

These are the cumulative words from student survivors we’ve heard from since the notice-and-comment period concluded in January 2019 to yesterday’s devastating decision by Betsy DeVos to move forward with publishing the Title IX regulations during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The regulatory changes proposed were already a step backward and it appears that with over 100,000 comments that were submitted last year, nothing was truly taken into consideration. 

DeVos has officially set a dangerous precedent by moving forward with the rule change and has once again failed survivors. By turning back the hands of time, they handed back brooms to schools, where they’d sweep all sexual violence–rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment–under the rug. What’s more pathetic is that they used this time–this time of a public health crisis as subterfuge to press these new Title IX regulations forward. Now is the time for us to come together to take back Title IX from DeVos because student survivor voices matter! We will fight back through direct action to make sure that these rules do not become law. 

We need to #TAKEBACKIX.

The Title IX regulations are dangerous, problematic and overshadow the humanity that needs to be seen in student survivors. Here are a few ways on how these regulations attack student survivors:

The Department of Education has…

Narrowed the definition of sexual harassment to be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that students will have to endure a repetitive endurance of sexual violence for schools to take their case seriously.

Further, schools are mandated to discuss complaints that do not meet the sexual harassment definition, even if the allegations are proven true, therefore setting a new precent for institutions to not take cases of sexual violence seriously. 

Allowed schools to ignore and dismiss reports if they didn’t go through the formal process.

The only complaints that will be investigated are those that are filed through the formal process and brought to the attention of the “correct authority”. This means that students can no longer go to someone they trust, like their teacher/professor, coach, or residential advisor. Only Title IX coordinators can file an official complaint and that is when the school is officially “put on notice”. Students’ ability to get help is severely limited, particularly from someone they trust. This will further discourage students from notifying Title IX coordinators for fear that they will report a known harasser and be forced into a Title IX process and further decreasing reporting. 

Required schools to use live cross-examination, a harmful tactic that will further traumatize students survivors and have their credibility be questioned.

Under this new provision, the Department is requiring schools to hold live, in-person or virtual, hearings and to provide both parties with an advisor, unless they already have an “advisor of choice” and allows the accused to face their accuser. 

We need to #TakeBackIX.

It is absolutely important to highlight that student survivors, who are at the margins of sexual assault, will be further marginalized, ignored, erased, and silenced. The current prevalence rates of sexual violence for LGBTQ+ and non-binary students, students of color–especially Black, Latinx, and Indigenous womyn, male student survivors, undocumented and immigrant students, and students with disabilities are already at an all time high and will continue to increase because of these Title IX regulations. For instance, we know that for every Black woman who reports, 15 do not; students with disabilities experience sexual assault at a rate two times more than those who don’t have disabilities; and one in ten people, who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community experience intimate partner violence. Marginalized student survivors are often stereotyped and mislabeled. They are particularly the most vulnerable due to presumptions that pre-exist. Their experiences are not monolithic. 

We need to #TakeBackIX.

We are urging students, advocates, universities/colleges, state representatives and senators to commit to standing with survivors by asking the Department of Education to take back Title IX before it goes into effect on August 14, 2020. 

We are urging the Department of Education to recognize that they are not only letting schools off the hook, but that they are doing more harm than good. Student survivors should not be used as sexual assault shields to move ahead this misogynist and dangeous Title IX regulation. 

Betsy DeVos, take Title IX all the way back or take several seats.