Rich Johnson and Tonya Haase, Co-Facilitators
Vision: Enshrined as one of the fundamental tenets (Article 26) of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Education is a cornerstone of our democracy. With its appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, it is clear that the Trump administration intends to dismantle the public education system by introducing neoliberal schemes to privatize public education. These policies will only exacerbate the harmful disparities of the current education system. The Education Team will strive to protect an available (free), accessible (non-discriminatory), acceptable (relevant), and adaptable (responsive) broad-based public education system that aims to produce active, informed citizens, and who behave in socially, politically, environmentally, and economically conscious ways.
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 first take comments from the public. CREDO is joining with UltraViolet to send comments directly to DeVos.
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.
Send a comment to Betsy DeVos: Protect survivors not perpetrators. Do not enact your disastrous Title IX rule changes. Click the link below to get started.
Thanks for taking action,
Kaili Lambe, Organizing Director