Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration Have Ignored Survivors
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6th, 2020
Washington, D.C. – In the midst of a global pandemic, Betsy Devos and the Trump Administration continue to show us exactly what their priorities are: rolling back the rights of student survivors.
Today, the Department of Education released its final rule on Title IX, which guts student survivors’ rights and tips the scales of school sexual misconduct cases in favor of perpetrators and schools that wish to sweep sexual violence under the rug. This new rule would be welcome at no time, but is particularly egregious now, during a national pandemic that has turned the lives of students upside-down and forced many schools and communities into crisis.
Sage Carson, the Manager of Know Your IX , the leading national survivor- and youth-led project of Advocates for Youth said:
“Today, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have shown, once again, that they have no interest in supporting student survivors and their rights. DeVos’ final Title IX rule ignores the over 100,000 comments submitted by survivors, students, and their families urgining DeVos to rescind her harmful Title IX rule. The final rule makes it harder for survivors to the report sexual violence, reduces schools’ liability for ignoring or covering up sexual harassment, and creates a biased reporting process that favors respondents and schools over survivors’ access to education. All this as students struggle to find housing, keep up with online classes, and pay rent as the unemployment rate soars. What these students need is support, not another attack from DeVos and Trump.”
During the notice and comment period, survivors shared their stories and explained how the Department of Education’s proposed rule on Title IX would push survivors out of school and let schools off the hook for ignoring campus sexual violence and discrimination. Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education ignored their voices and instead released a rule today that is largely identical to their proposed draft. This rule demonstrates that the Trump Administration cares more about schools’ bottom line than survivors’ right to an education.
DeVos’ rule will:
- Permitting schools to ignore sexual assault that occurs outside of a school program — such as in off-campus housing. DeVos’ proposed rule would allow schools to ignore complaints of sexual violence that occur outside of a schools’ program or activity, or are outside of the U.S.. If implemented, the Trump Administration would strip Title IX rights from survivors who are assaulted off school grounds, even if the assault directly harmed their education. This rule would have grave consequences for the eighty-seven percent of college students who live off-campus.
- Increase barriers to reporting and shield schools from liability for ignoring or covering up sexual harassment. DeVos’ rule dramatically raises the standard for liability for schools that ignore sexual harassment, excluding cases where schools “reasonably should have” known about sexual harassment. It allows schools to sweep sexual harassment under the rug by ignoring best practices and creating an environment where survivors are intimidated out of reporting sexual assault — then disclaim responsibility because they chilled reports of harassment.
- Require schools to only investigate the most serious forms of harassment and assault. DeVos’ definition of sexual harassment will only require schools to act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
- Allowing schools to use unregulated “mediation” processes instead of investigating. Before the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), schools pushed survivors to “work it out” with their rapists, fostering a climate where students were afraid to come forward. The Department’s decision to revert back to a harmful status quo will allow for schools and rapists to intimidate survivors into silence. Furthermore, the Department has thus far offered absolutely no guidance on how schools should conduct these proceedings, making it even more likely that institutions will violate survivors’ civil rights.
Survivor activists fought for decades to create equitable Title IX policies, both federally and on their individual campuses. Though Betsy DeVos has attempted to undo these efforts, Know Your IX and other organizations will challenge her rule in court while activists continue to hold their schools accountable. Schools now have the opportunity to take action by upholding best practices and showing they support survivors while complying with federal law.
We call on schools to resist Betsy DeVos’s anti-survivor agenda by choosing to uphold established Title IX best practices, including the preponderance of evidence standard and 60-day investigation timeline, instead of cooperating with DeVos’s rollback of survivors’ rights. Schools administrators can both comply with new federal law and stand with survivors in this fight to continue their educations in the wake of violence.