WASHINGTON, DC – “We don’t see you. We don’t hear you. We don’t believe you.” That’s the message Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is sending with the sweeping new changes to Title IX that give new rights to the accused, reduce liability for schools, tighten the definition of sexual harassment and allow schools to use a stricter standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault.
The new rule would now be based in law, rather than as a guidance for schools, eliminating discretion and requiring adherence to a criminal trial-like process which prioritizes the interests of the accused. The approach defeats Title IX’s intent of fairly adjudicating claims while keeping students in school. Even more disturbing is the changed definition of sexual harassment to “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.” Additionally, universities would not be required to investigate incidents that occur off-campus between two students; most students live off-campus.
More than 124,000 public comments critical of the changes were submitted, including from survivors, advocacy groups, and universities who have worked for years to shape a fairer process to protect survivors. These new provisions will return us to the bad old days when many survivors did not file a complaint believing that they would not be taken seriously, or they just dropped out of school.
During a time of pandemic and profound emotional stress, students shouldn’t have to endure the added burden of worrying whether their schools will protect them from horrific sexual misconduct and abuse. But Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump are making it clear that they care more about their conservative political donors and allies than they do about survivors of sexual assault.
These draconian measures will make schools more dangerous by shredding Title IX protections for survivors and continue the Trump Administration’s all-out attack on the rights of women and girls. Betsy DeVos has been a loyal soldier in this campaign from the beginning—and we can’t allow her to succeed.
NOW, our allies and grassroots activists will make sure that these rules never go into effect —because the safety on campus of women and girls must come first. Lives are at stake.