U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ran a touchdown Nov. 16 for her predator-in-chief coach Donald Trump — when she introduced a revised proposal for Title IX regulations addressing sexual violence and misconduct in K-12 schools and colleges and universities that receive government funding.
Survivors’ advocates, women’s and LGBTQ rights organizations, and educational and legal groups quickly united to oppose the new rules. Not only do the revamped rules include a more stringent definition of misconduct, decrease schools’ jurisdiction and liability, and promote “due process” for attackers, but predictions are that these rules will discourage students from reporting abuse and often lead them to drop out.
One of the major changes in Title IX is that the standard needed to convict an accused will change from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.” The bar will also be raised for what counts as sexual harassment from “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person access to the [school’s] education program or activity.”
This is just another plank in the anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ agenda of the viciously misogynous, totally reactionary Trump administration.
Title IX is the landmark civil rights law, passed in the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, including sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment, that would limit or deny students access to education. Title IX is often used to demand women have equal access to sports.
One of the first changes DeVos instituted after she took office in early 2017 was to ditch the more survivor-friendly Title IX rules of the previous administration. Then in July she made a show of meeting openly with so-called “men’s rights” groups, which promote the unfounded claim that “false accusations” are the real problem. As former DOE Secretary John King Jr. told mic.com, “There is just no evidence to support that.” (Nov. 21)
Over 3 million students sexually assaulted in 2018
Rewire.News reported Nov. 16 that more than 3 million students will be sexually assaulted in 2018, and less than 10 percent of them will report it to school or college officials. The article noted that eight of 10 trans and gender-nonconforming students in K-12 grades experience harassment, with more than 1 in 3 physically assaulted in high school. “More than a third of students who have been sexually assaulted drop out of school, indicating that sexual violence is a major factor in equal access to educational opportunities.”
Rewire quoted the statement of the National Center for Transgender Equality: “Transgender people know all too well the experience of having our stories put on trial, our experiences disbelieved and our suffering ignored. If adopted, this rule will put more barriers between transgender survivors and justice.”
Statistics published Nov. 16 by the Center for American Progress confirm that. Campus sexual assault is a widespread national problem when 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men report some form of sexual assault during college. Women of color join LGBTQ students in having higher rates of sexual assault compared with other students. Out of fear of retaliation or privacy issues, 80 percent of students choose not to report abuse.
Send comments to stop proposed changes
But the DeVos regulations are not yet final. There will be a 60-day comment period when all institutions and individuals are invited to respond to the proposed regulations, after which the DOE is supposed to make changes reflecting that feedback. But before the comment period begins, the revised regulations must be officially listed on the Federal Register. As of Nov. 27, they had not been, although a DOE staffer told this reporter that they were supposed to be registered before the “Thanksgiving” holiday.
Some pro-survivor groups are noting that the length of the comment period is shorter than the more frequently used 90-day period — perhaps to limit responses during finals and semester break. A Nov. 21 blog on the National Women’s Law Center website (nwlc.org) stresses that the law cannot be finalized or implemented until the DOE “reviews each comment and either makes changes to the rules, or explains why they’ve ignored the element of the public’s input.”
The NWLC notes that the link to submit comments on the DOE website hasn’t been posted yet, so it provides detailed instructions on how and where to submit written comments by mail. While stating that the Center will also help survivors and allies submit electronic comments, it reports: “[L]egible handwritten messages are often especially effective at persuading public officials … particularly when received in large numbers.”
Part 2 will detail how the proposed Title IX regulations are anti-survivor and pro-predator.