Education Law Center has submitted detailed comments objecting to the poorly-reasoned and unlawful Title IX regulations recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). ELC objects to the proposed rules on several grounds, including that they exceed the regulatory authority the ED has under Title IX, are based on demonstrably erroneous assumptions about the nature of sexual assault and harassment, and reflect a callous indifference towards survivors of sexual violence.
In its proposal, the ED asserts that the agency “does not believe it is reasonable to assume that these proposed regulations will have a quantifiable effect on the underlying rate of sexual harassment occurring in the education programs or activities of recipients.” This unsupported assumption is deeply troubling given that the Department is tasked under Title IX with eliminating sex discrimination from U.S. schools. Rather than advance that goal, the proposed regulations will, without question, make it harder for survivors to report their experiences and harder for school officials to act on that information.
Even more troubling, the ED’s proposed rules preclude school officials from investigating or acting on a wide array of harassing conduct. For those cases that do move forward, new rules micro-managing how schools conduct investigations and hearings would turn a school discipline issue into a legal quagmire. The combination of those issues will prevent harassed students from accessing justice. Given how often survivors do not report their experiences, the proposed regulations would make schools a “safe haven” for harassers and abusers and drive survivors further underground.
ELC Legal Fellow, Rich Frost, who authored ELC’s comments, said that, “The Department has totally missed the mark with these proposed regulations. US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos needs to scrap the proposal and start over from scratch. The proposed regulations do little more than create a massive liability shield for harassers, abusers, and negligent schools. The Secretary needs to instead focus on what Title IX actually calls for—ending sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions.”
Over one hundred thousand Americans have weighed in with the Department. The vast majority, including education professionals, school administrators, survivors of sexual violence, civil rights advocates, and other stakeholders, vehemently oppose these regulations.
“We can and must reduce the rates of sexual harassment and assault in our schools,” Mr. Frost said. “To keep our students safe, ELC is committed to joining the civil and education rights community to work to keep these regulations from seeing the light of day.”
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