Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Education finalized a rule that will fundamentally change the way that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 —the longstanding and groundbreaking civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs—is enforced and implemented in schools across the country.
Among its sweeping changes, the rule will limit schools’ enforcement obligations to a narrowly defined subset of sexual harassment cases that meet the highest standard of severity, thereby limiting schools’ potential liability and making it less likely that survivors will report incidents of sexual harassment. It will also allow institutions to employ an unnecessarily demanding burden of proof when investigating Title IX sexual harassment cases, setting an unreasonably high bar for evidence that will be difficult to satisfy in cases and further stack the process against the survivor.
Osub Ahmed, senior policy analyst for women’s health and rights with the Center for American Progress’ Women’s Initiative, issued the following statement:
The rule does a grave injustice to survivors of sexual harassment and assault by forcing them to satisfy unreasonably stringent standards when trying to pursue their cases and making it easier for schools to ignore complaints altogether. By raising reporting thresholds and changing grievance procedures, schools will likely investigate fewer incidents of sexual harassment—an impact that the Education Department even acknowledges in its rules—which will have a chilling effect on reporting of sexual harassment and roll back the clock on efforts to ensure gender equity in schools. We know that 1 in 5 women report experiencing some form of sexual assault during their time in college, and survivors have relied on the protections afforded by Title IX to safely report these incidents for decades. These rules deliberately undermine these vital protections and threaten the rights and safety of survivors.
Frank J. Bewkes, policy analyst for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center, issued the following statement:
This is an unacceptable contraction of survivors’ rights that is especially concerning for the LGBTQ community. CAP research has found that allegations of harassment appeared more frequently in Title IX complaints based on LGBTQ identity than in the general population, with nearly 76 percent of such complaints alleging sexual or gender harassment. From her move to eliminate guidance on protecting transgender students to today’s rule, Secretary Devos has consistently demonstrated a clear refusal to uphold the rights of LGBTQ students. This rule is an attempt by Secretary DeVos and her Department of Education to further shirk their duty to enforce the protections Title IX offers for all students.
This rule is immoral, dangerous, and runs counter to the intent of Title IX. We stand with survivors during this time and will continue to advocate for a fair and equitable system that treats all parties fairly.
For further information on this topic or to connect with a policy expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.741.6292.