THE LATEST: On March 15, 2022 plaintiffs informed the court that they do not intend to file a second amended complaint as would otherwise be allowed. Instead, the plaintiffs have requested that the court enter a final appealable order so that plaintiffs can pursue an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This filing follows the court’s February 16, 2022 order granting the government’s Motion to Dismiss and denying as moot motions to intervene.

BACKGROUND

Sexual harassment poses a significant obstacle to students’ ability to learn and thrive in school. Students who are sexually harassed by their peers or teachers may avoid school or experience a fall off in their academic performance—often dropping classes or leaving school altogether.

For nearly 50 years, Title IX has equipped students with an important tool to fight sex discrimination and harassment in schools. Title IX requires that schools receiving federal funding ensure that all students have equal access to the resource of public K-12 education, free from sexual harassment.

In 2020, the Department of Education, under the leadership of then-Secretary Betsy DeVos, issued regulations that weakened key protections for students. The new regulations dramatically scale back the Department’s enforcement role by limiting when a school’s neglect will trigger a mandatory Title IX investigation. As a result, students have lost a valuable resource for compelling their schools to take action against sexual harassment.

The Women’s Student Union (WSU) is an organization of young people who attend school in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in Berkeley, California. Because of the 2020 regulations, the federal government has failed to investigate BUSD and requires it to change its policies and practices on important matters related to sexual harassment.

On March 8, 2021, represented by Public Justice, the National Youth Law Center, and Correia & Puth–later joined by Democracy Forward–the WSU challenged several damaging provisions of the Department of Education’s 2020 regulations. WSU is urging the court to strike down those provisions.

In November, 2021, plaintiffs urged the court to reject efforts by Texas, FIRE, Independent Women’s Law Center, & Speech First, Inc. to intervene in this case. Just weeks later, on December 8, 2021, the Women’s Student Union urged the court to reject efforts to end its case against the Department of Education’s Title IX rules. The government responded on December 22, 2021, urging the court to dismiss this case.

A hearing was held on January 20, 2022 where argument was heard on opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, as well as attempts by the state of Texas and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Independent Women’s Law Center, and Speech First, Inc. to intervene in the case. As Democracy Forward’s Counsel John Lewis said to court in that hearing, these regulations have “deprived the plaintiffs of certain procedural protections that would otherwise be available to them.”

Last Updated: March 15, 2022

John Lewis

Senior Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions at the federal and state level.

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