(Graphic: from Abused by students, failed by adults: Chicago children sexually attacked by peers at school amid lax supervision.
Save Title IX from Betsy DeVos. Save kids and young adults. Comments due by 11:59 EST tonight.
Title IX is a civil rights law that bans gender-based discrimination in primary, secondary, and higher education. In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a “Dear Colleague” letter, which specified that sexual harassment, assault, stalking, and other forms of gender-based violence interfere with a student’s right to equal educational opportunities and are therefore covered under the Act.
The letter also provided guidance on how schools should comply with federal law and survivor advocacy groups stated that it was a significant step toward reducing gender-based violence on college campuses. After meeting with extremist men’s rights groups, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed changes that would reverse these guidelines, make it harder for survivors to come forward, strip Title IX protection from many them, and allow schools to raise the standard of proof required for sexual harassment and assault to that required of criminal cases.
This is your last day to comment on Secretary’s plans here until 11:59 pm EST. Or do it here. Or here.
Who is this Betsy person? Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is demographically part of the group most hostile to #MeToo issues – older women who voted for Trump with grown sons. (She has two.) The Christine Blasey Ford v. Kavanaugh and the earlier Doug Jones v. Roy Moore are just two examples of the internalized misogyny that afflicts conservative women. When it comes to a choosing to believe a nice young man or a woman, they do not believe the woman. This is Betsy Devos’ starting point and she’s got the whole Trump administration, led by a serial harasser, behind her.
Next, she is older. Her education happened when school boundaries were defined by the edge of the football field and her own daughters were home-schooled. She has little experience in today’s reality, where the social savagery of the campus is extended by the range of every student with a cell phone.
“[Among] her big ‘accomplishments,’” says Diane Ravitch, the N.Y.U. professor and respected education historian, “have been reversing civil-rights enforcement for kids with disabilities, putting administrators from for-profit colleges in charge of monitoring for-profit colleges . . . stabbing in the back young people with heavy debt for their college education, and being a constant critic of public schools…. For the time being, she has been in the forefront of Trump’s campaign to strip down federal agencies—a program now enforced across the executive branch…. There is even a supposed proposal to merge the Labor and Education Departments. These are not experiments or improvisations. They are the advanced stages of a plan of privatization that reaches back decades. The DeVoses’ ideal, “selling America,” today can often mean selling it out—and selling it off, piece by piece.”
She was just getting warmed up with this terrible September 2017 guidance:
- Schools can change the evidentiary standard in favor of rapists and harassers, falsely equating a Title IX case, a civil rights act, to a criminal matter. Few are actually punished under Title IX.
- Schools can make appeals available only to perpetrators, not victims.
- Schools can allow rape survivors to be directly cross-examined by their rapists.
- Schools no longer have to comply to a 60-day mandatory timeline.
Here’s the final version of her academic hellscape and some talking points..
Actual plan here. Comments examples are at the bottom. The talking points below, are from Hands of IX and the nwlc.org Get a cup of coffee, sit down and read. When you get to the bottom, you’re just going to say…”WTH?”
- Assault, rape and stalking is more common than one would think.
- Among undergraduate students, nearly one in four women and just over 5% of men experience sexual assault.
- 16% of men were sexually assaulted by the age of 18.
- …and way more damaging to the victims…
- 34.1% of students who have experienced sexual assault drop out of college, higher than the overall dropout rate for college students. (Mengo & Black, 2015)
- Women who are sexually assaulted or abused are over twice as likely to have PTSD, depression, and chronic pain afterward as non-abused women (Woods et al., 2005).
- An estimated 40% of rape victims suffer from severe emotional distress (requiring mental health treatment) (Miller, Cohen, & Rossman, 1993).
- More than 40% of college students who were sexually victimized also reported experiences of institutional betrayal (Freyd, The Conversation, 2018).
- GOOD schools LIKE the current rules!: DeVos says that “School administrators tell me it has run amok.” In reality, 145 state legislators, representing 40 states and DC, oppose her proposed rule changes, submitting a joint statement here. School superintendents say the proposed changes are an “unconscionable attack” on student safety.
- If it didn’t happen RW and on-campus, it didn’t happen: (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)):The proposed rules would strip Title IX rights from survivors who are assaulted off-campus or outside of a school’s educational programs, and those targeted with hostile social media campaigns, such as nude pictures and vicious rumors. 87% of college students live off campus. That number is higher for students K-12. None of these students would be protected under Title IX if the Trump administration’s rules are enacted.
- It stops GOOD schools from helping students: More than 13,000 school superintendents are “shocked” that DeVos would require mandatory dismissal of harassment occurring outside of school. According to AASA, “it is already “common practice for district administrators to discipline students for off-campus conduct,” including use of drugs or alcohol at a house party, cyberbullying, hazing, and physical assault. School officials understand that out-of-school conduct “will often spillover into the school day and school environment.” This rule would “tie [their] hands not only in how [they] protect [their] students,” but also in “how [they] mitigate any potential litigation.” DeVos’s statement that schools could still process out-of-school harassment under a different conduct code—just not Title IX—is “confusing and impractical” and would further expose schools to legal liability.
- It has to get REALLY BAD first: (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)): The proposed new definition for sexual harassment would only require schools to act when 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. The victim has to prove dropping grades or missing classes as a result of harassment.
- You could be forced to sit next to your rapist: DeVos’ regulations would prohibit schools from removing perpetrators from dorms or shared classes with survivors UNLESS the survivor wins a disciplinary proceeding.
- If it didn’t happen in America, it didn’t happen: The proposed rules limit protections to students within the United States. Students doing study abroad or other university programs outside the U.S. would have no Title IX protections under the new guidelines.
- More “Larry Nassars” for everyone!: (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30): Under the current Title IX, a school must respond to sexual harassment when a student reports it to an employee, as long as the student reasonably believes that the employee has the authority to take action to address the harassment or has a duty to report it to appropriate school officials. The proposed rules would allow the majority of school employees to ignore students who report sexual abuse because these employees lack “the authority to institute corrective measures.” An 8-year-old child could tells a playground supervisor that his teacher is inappropriately touching him, but the playground supervisor wouldn’t be obligated to do anything. So she/he doesn’t.
- Presumption of “Nothing”: (§ 106.45(b)(1)(iv)) Schools would be required to presume that no harassment occurred, which makes no sense given the proven frequency of this issue. This presumption would also ignore the reality that men and boys are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault than to be falsely accused of it and harmswomen and girls of color, LGBTQ students, pregnant and parenting students, and students with disabilities—all of whom are subject to harmful stereotypes that make schools less likely to believe them when they report sexual harassment. In contrast, current Title IX rules require schools to treat both students “equitabl[y]” and not make any presumptions about either student’s credibility.
- “Deliberate indifference”: (§§ 106.44(a), (b)(1)-(4)): Schools would be allowed to treat survivors poorly as long as the school follows various procedures in place, regardless of how those procedures fail to help or harm survivors. Current Title IX guidance requires schools to act “reasonably” in response to known sexual harassment by investigating, providing remedies, and preventing the harassment from occurring again. Workplace harassment laws hold employers to a higher standard in addressing sexual harassment than DeVos is proposing to for schools.
- “Supportive measures.”: (§ 106.30):Schools would be allowed to offer weak “supportive measures” that are “designed to” help the student but are useless or dangerous in reality For example, a school could create a mutual no-contact order between a survivor and her assailant but refuse to discipline the assailant when he continues to text her or finds ways to bump into her at school. A survivor would not be able to get a one-way no-contact order against their assailant; the survivor would need to agree to a mutual no-contact order, which could lead to a rapist sending his friends to torment the survivor, and the survivor being suspended for violating her side of the no‑contact order if she tells him to stop. As another example, a school might be barred from transferring a rapist to another class or dorm because it would “unreasonably burden” him, thereby forcing a survivor to change all of her own class and housing assignments in order to avoid her rapist.
- This is “civil”, not “criminal”!: (§ 106.45(b)(4)(i)): Under the new rules, schools would be able to impose a higher standard of proof for sexual harassment complaints than for complaints of physical assault, creating a double-standard that places different burdens on survivors of similarly serious campus misconduct. This continues the trend evident in the Kavanaugh hearings and in public statements by President Donald Trump, to treat sexual assault allegations with the highest degree of skepticism and favors the the accused student over the victim.
- “You are ruining my son’s life!”: (§ 106.45(b)(3)(vi)-(vii)): DeVos’ new regulations would require colleges and universities to provide for live cross-examination by a accused’s adviser of choice, which could be an angry dad or a close friend – the earlier version allowed the rapist/harasser to do it himself), further traumatizing survivors. School superintendents object to subjecting K12 students to a live hearing. AASA also noted that live cross-examination would result in “sharp inequities” if one student can afford an attorney and the other student cannot. “If anything,” the school superintendents concluded, the live hearing requirement simply “places a new burden” on schools.
- Dragging it out until the survivor gives up: (§ 106.45(b)(1)(v)): The rules would allow schools to delay their own internal investigations if law enforcement is investigating the charges. This could leave survivors unprotected on their campuses for weeks to months while the legal process plays out. Current rules allow 60 days.
- “There are good people on both sides”: (§ 106.45(b)(6)): The new ruling could trap a victim into an informal resolution process, such as mediation, that does not involve a full investigation and adjudication.” Mediation does not require individuals to take responsibility for the harm that they have caused prior to participation in an informal resolution proceeding. As a result, facilitators engaged in a mediation proceeding (as opposed to restorative justice), may engage in conduct implying that survivors and perpetrators are equally at fault for experiences of intimate partner or acquaintance violence.
- Why is religion an excuse to abuse someone? Religious schools would be able to claim “religious” excuses for violating Title IX, even if the school had never before requested a religious exemption from ED. DO NOT GO TO A SCHOOL THAT MAINTAINS AN RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION TO TITLE IX!
- Why don’t they just go to the police and report stuff?
- Survivors rarely report cases of sexual violence to their schools– largely because they don’t know how to report or who to report to on their campus (Holland & Cortina, 2017).3
- Survivors often don’t report their sexual assaults because of fear of being disbelieved or their assault not taken seriously (Holland & Cortina, 2017).
- Only 2%-10% of reported cases of sexual assault are false (Lisak et al., 2010). 4
- 69% of survivors reported police officers discouraged them from filing a report. One-third of survivors had police refuse to take their reports (Campbell, 2005).
- 20% were asked specifically if they had responded sexually to the assault (i.e., if they had an orgasm) (Campbell, 2005)
- And then there’s this guy…
- Try not to use a canned script. Here’s the time to use your own personal experiences to discuss why this whole rule change is so heinous.
- You can use “ANONYMOUS” in the “first” and “last” name sections.
- Don’t be overwhelmed. Pick (1) rule change per comment if you want and talk about how it affected you, a friend or a family member.
- Talk about how a teacher stood up for you and how that would be different under these new rules.
Comment: I oppose the proposed changes to Title IX for the following reasons: (Pick something from above.)
Comment: I strongly oppose the new Title IX rules proposed by the Department of Education. This move will make our schools less safe. [LIST ADDITIONAL PERSONAL OR POLICY REASONS WHY YOU ARE FEEL SCHOOLS NEED STRONG TITLE IX PROTECTIONS. THEY SHOULD BE UNIQUE TO YOU.]
[Insert reason why you or a family member or a friend might be negatively impacted by the changes to the rules. Or insert a personal story.]
I urge you to withdraw the rollbacks, which would make it harder for survivors to come forward and assailants to be held accountable.”
- Background on Betsy DeVos from the ACLU of Michigan (aclu)
- Christian Colleges have a sexual assault problem (rewire.news)
- The porposed Title IX rules make no practical, moral or legal sense (Rewire.News)
- 2-page fact sheets from the National Women’s Law Center (nwlc.org)
- Mythbusting Title IX: Dispel 8 common myths about Title IX
- Sexual Violence & Title IX: What schools must do to address sexual violence
- FERPA & Title IX: Despite what some schools believe, disclosures required by Title IX do not conflict with the Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA).
- LGBTQ Students & Title IX: Title IX prohibits gender-based harassment—harassment based on a student’s nonconformity with stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Cyberbullying & Title IX: Schools are required to address sexual harassment that occurs via text messages, instant/direct messages, emails, videos, social media pages, etc.