This afternoon, Betsy DeVos finally unleashed her dreaded changes to Title IX, beefing up protections for those accused of sexual harassment and assault, putting survivors more at risk. Advocacy groups like Know Your IX, meanwhile, are already looking to sue DeVos, and the Federal Government, for the overhaul.
The New York Times reports that DeVos’s changes to Title IX vastly reduce the responsibility of schools to address sexual harassment, including new guidelines that will require both survivors and the accused to be “cross-examined” in live hearings to “challenge their credibility.” Further, schools will no longer be required to monitor sexual harassment claims outside their direct purview, meaning: If it didn’t happen through a school-sanctioned program or activity, DeVos’s changes won’t require schools to pursue official Title IX investigations. For victims of off-campus harassment from their peers, they will no longer have official channels to report or protect themselves from it.
Survivor and youth advocates also warn of changes to guidelines regarding school liability in not addressing claims of sexual harassment. As the Times puts it, “To find a school legally culpable for mishandling allegations, they would have to be proven ‘deliberately indifferent.’” Unless survivors can prove the campus administration knowingly ignored their claims—already a legal quagmire due to past changes made by Devos’s Education Department—schools are more protected than ever.
“Today, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have shown, once again, that they have no interest in supporting student survivors and their rights. DeVos’ final Title IX rule ignores the over 100,000 comments submitted by survivors, students, and their families urgning DeVos to rescind her harmful Title IX rule. The final rule makes it harder for survivors to the report sexual violence, reduces schools’ liability for ignoring or covering up sexual harassment, and creates a biased reporting process that favors respondents and schools over survivors’ access to education. All this as students struggle to find housing, keep up with online classes, and pay rent as the unemployment rate soars. What these students need is support, not another attack from DeVos and Trump.”
It is perhaps no surprise that Trump, notably accused of sexual misconduct by at least 25 women, has retained an Education Secretary so committed to demolishing what few protections there are for survivors. As such, I cannot say this any clearer: Fuck you, Betsy!