Stop Betsy DeVos' attack on student sexual assault survivors
Betsy DeVos is trying to make it easier for schools to sweep campus sexual assault under the rug.
Cheered on by conservatives and so-called men's rights groups, the Department of Education recently released proposed rule changes to Title IX, the landmark legislation that prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.1 If enacted, the rule changes would almost certainly deter survivors from reporting harassment and assault. Those who do report will be much less likely to see their schools take action and the small number whose reports result in an investigation will then face a retraumatizing and invasive process.
In the era of #MeToo, when survivors of sexual assault are starting to be comfortable speaking up, this will only serve to protect perpetrators and roll-back institutional responsibility for addressing sexual misconduct. DeVos cannot just ram this through – the Department of Education must listen to the public. CREDO is joining partners including UltraViolet, End Rape on Campus and the National Women's Law Center to create a massive public outcry opposing these changes. Will you sign the petition?
Tell Betsy DeVos: Protect survivors not perpetrators. Do not enact your disastrous Title IX rule changes.
In recent years, students and advocates have made great strides in reducing campus sexual assault, holding perpetrators accountable, ensuring equitable and trauma-centered adjudication processes, and helping survivors get the accommodations they need to continue their education. Title IX and the Obama administration's guidelines for its implementation have been crucial tools in that work, but DeVos wants to roll back important Title IX protections.2
If DeVos gets her way, many of those protections will be eroded. The proposed rule changes would:
- Relieve schools of the responsibility to investigate harassment and assault unless survivors report to specific, designated employees. If students who are more likely to have a trusting relationship with another school official, such as a coach or adviser don't find the "right" person to report to, the school will not be obligated to take action.3
- Limit the definition of harassment so that schools are required to ignore complaints until the harassment is so bad it interferes with student learning – that is, until a survivor drops out of class, reports of the harassment will not be taken seriously.4
- Require administrations to dismiss complaints – even if they are reported to the "right" school official – about off-campus incidents. That includes reports of harassment across the street from campus, in off-campus student apartments, or even repeated online harassment. Dismissal of these reports means that survivors might need to face their harasser or abuser in class every day.5
- Change the standard of evidence in campus adjudications to tilt the investigation in favor of reported harassers and rapists. Even if schools use a preponderance of evidence standard in all other student disciplinary cases such as cheating, the rule change would allow for a stricter standard for cases of sexual assault.6
- Guarantee that accused perpetrators, have the right to cross-examine the survivors who report them. In an almost certainly retraumatizing process, survivors would be required to face their assailants or their representative – and for wealthy perpetrators that could mean an inquisition from a high-paid lawyer experienced in shredding survivors' accounts.7
If DeVos gets her way, schools will be off the hook for keeping their students safe. These proposed rule changes only serve to protect the likes of the Larry Nassars and Brock Turners of the world.
Tell Betsy DeVos: Protect survivors not perpetrators. Do not enact your disastrous Title IX rule changes. Click the link below to sign the petition.
- Erik Ortiz, " DeVos proposals for campus sex misconduct rules are 'worse than we thought,' victims' advocates say," NBC News, Nov. 16, 2018.
- Laura Meckler, "Betsy DeVos set to bolster rights of accused in rewrite of sexual assault rules," The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2018.
- Sarah Brown and Katherine Mangan, "What You Need to Know About the Proposed Title IX Regulations," The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 16, 2018.
- Audie Cornish, "Former Title IX Official Outlines Changes To How Colleges Handle Sexual Assault Cases," NPR, Nov. 19, 2018.
- Brown and Mangan, "What You Need to Know About the Proposed Title IX Regulations."
- Meckler, "Betsy DeVos set to bolster rights of accused in rewrite of sexual assault rules."
- Benjamin Wermund, "The biggest sticking point in DeVos’ Title IX rules," POLITICO, Nov. 19, 2018.