WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward filed suit against the Trump Administration for refusing to disclose records documenting communications between Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and men’s rights groups in the lead up to the Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to roll back Title IX protections for student survivors of sexual violence.
In advance of her decision to revise DOE Title IX sexual harassment and violence policy, Secretary DeVos solicited the views of so-called “men’s rights” representatives. By contrast, she only met with organizations representing the views of sexual harassment and assault survivors after repeated requests for an audience. Echoing the rhetoric and arguments of “men’s rights” groups, Secretary DeVos and Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson have criticized Title IX protections, asserting that many girls and women who report sexual harassment misunderstood a harmless romantic advance and that those who report sexual violence often are either lying or merely regret a consensual sexual encounter.
“So-called ‘men’s rights’ groups had Secretary DeVos’ ear when she decided to roll back protections for survivors of sexual violence,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “The Department’s refusal to release Secretary DeVos’s communications with these radical groups is deeply concerning and unlawful.”
The men’s rights movement characterizes sexual assault on college campuses as a “faux crisis.”
To understand the degree to which this discriminatory mindset informed DOE decision-making, Democracy Forward submitted three FOIA requests to DOE in March of 2018. To date, DOE has not produced any documents to Democracy Forward, nor has it provided information regarding when DOE expects to make a determination as to whether to comply with the FOIA request.
Democracy Forward, along with the National Women’s Law Center and the National Center for Youth Law, is representing plaintiffs SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center in ongoing litigation challenging the Administration’s Title IX policies as unlawful and unconstitutionally based on discriminatory beliefs.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.