Sec. Betsy DeVos’ Proposed Sexual Assault Rules Part of a Pattern of Unlawful, Discriminatory Action against Survivors

The Trump Administration has issued new proposed Title IX rules on how schools should handle campus sexual assault. Today’s announcement is the latest effort by Dept of Education Sec. Betsy DeVos to codify extreme Title IX policies creating discriminatory barriers that disadvantage survivors and discourage them from reporting their experiences.

As outlined below, in 2017, Sec. DeVos unlawfully rescinded Title IX protections for student survivors of sexual violence, such as the requirement that schools conduct prompt investigations following reports of sexual misconduct.  That action was taken after actively soliciting input from men’s rights groups and was based on a discriminatory animus against female survivors.

And we sued!

The Trump Administration hyped sexist propaganda as “helpful” to internal Dept. of Education discussions surrounding the rollback of Title IX sexual assault protections.

  • Senior Dept. of Education officials, including then-Acting Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson, hold the discriminatory belief that women and girls who report sexual violence are not credible. For example, Ms. Jackson stated that “accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation.’”

  • In the lead up to the 2017 rollback of Title IX protections, Ms. Jackson required staff to read sexist propaganda that described Title IX as protecting women from “sexual bogeymen,” and a letter from men’s rights group, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) that raised  concerns about “victim centered investigations.”

  • Ms. Jackson described this as reading material “everyone need[ed] to read” and told staff members that the items were “helpful… in reference to the [Title IX] issues we are discussing.”

Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration’s roll back of Title IX guidance was discriminatory and unlawful.

  • The U.S. Constitution prohibits  federal policy from being based on discriminatory motives.

  • And as the evidence uncovered so far reveals, Department of Education senior officials were motivated by sexist stereotypes when they eliminated survivor protections, violating the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection guarantee.

A coalition of legal and public interest organizations are suing the Trump Administration for the unlawful Title IX guidance rollback and are seeking to reinstate survivor protections for those who need them most.

  • Democracy Forward, along with the National Center for Youth Law and the National Women’s Law Center, filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center against the Trump Administration to stop the implementation of new and extreme Title IX guidance, alleging that it is unconstitutionally based on the Administration’s discriminatory beliefs about the credibility of women and girls who report sexual violence.

  • The case, SurvJustice, et al, v. DeVos, et al., was filed in January 2018 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

  • Earlier this month, the groups amended their complaint to include new evidence to reinforce the claim that Sec. DeVos’ Title IX policy was based on sexist stereotypes, rendering it unconstitutional.

What’s next for our case?

  • While the Department’s newly proposed rule proceeds through the administrative process, the 2017 Title IX Policy remains in place, continuing to harm sexual violence survivors.  As such, SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, Victim Rights Law Center, and Democracy Forward, along with the National Center for Youth Law and the National Women’s Law Center are vigorously pursuing their case. The Administration’s Title IX actions to unlawfully rescind the guidance were based on sexist stereotypes.

  • The Administration has until December 14, 2018 to respond to the allegations of discrimination, including evidence exposing its reliance on sexist propaganda as guidance to construct Title IX policies for survivors of campus sexual assault.

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