You’ve probably heard about Betsy DeVos’ rollback of Title IX protections for survivors of sexual violence on college and high school campuses. But let us introduce you to Candice Jackson, a senior Education Department official who has pushed these extreme changes Behind the Scenes.
As a senior Education Department official, Candice Jackson has made a significant impact at the Office for Civil Rights.
She joined the Trump administration in April 2017 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, and she led the office as Acting Assistant Secretary until her successor was confirmed by the Senate. Now, she is Deputy General Counsel. OCR’s mission is to “ensure equal access to education” (something even DeVos couldn’t remember in a Congressional hearing, but that’s another story), but under DeVos and Jackon’s lead, students have experienced a serious loss of protections—particularly survivors of sexual violence.
Many people were concerned when the self-described conservative-turned-libertarian Jackson took the lead at OCR, since she had a limited background in civil rights law. In fact, she once wrote that she faced discrimination on her own college campus because she was white. And instead of a legal career focused on civil rights law, Jackson’s career included working for Judicial Watch and writing articles for conspiracy sites like InfoWars. Particularly concerning for sexual assault prevention activists, during the 2016 campaign, Jackson wrote on Facebook that “these recent accusers against Trump are, frankly, fake victims.”
Candice Jackson has publicly and privately pushed her harmful beliefs about survivors.
In September 2017, Jackson told the New York Times what she thought about sexual assault accusations: “the 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 because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
As she and her staff worked on changes to the Department’s policies on campus sexual assault, Jackson required her staff to read the book Unwanted Advances, which describes college campuses as “a secret cornucopia of accusation,” and Title IX as a remedy to “sexual ambivalences or awkward sexual experiences.”
Jackson and DeVos also prioritized and solicited the views of so-called “men’s rights” representatives in advance of the Title IX policy change. Jackson made sure her staff heard from a men’s rights group, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, who voiced their concerns about “victim centered investigations.” She secretly coordinated with Families Advocating for Campus Equality, another group that advocates for accused students, to request that they publish numerous op-eds regarding Title IX in advance of DeVos’ September 2017 speech on the policy. By contrast, DeVos only met with organizations representing the views of sexual harassment and assault survivors after repeated requests for an audience.
Instead of using the Office for Civil Rights to protect survivors, Candice Jackson has incorporated her extreme views on women and survivors into policy.
In 2017, the Department of Education rolled back critical Title IX protections—in a move signed by Jackson. This rollback eliminated a recommended timeframe for schools to resolve Title IX reports, permits schools to allow a student accused of sexual assault to appeal an unfavorable outcome but denies that right to survivors, and allows schools to decline to issue interim measures–like moving out of a residence or changing class schedules–to protect the person complaining of sexual assault from further harassment or violence during the investigation of the complaint.
With the National Center for Youth Law and the National Women’s Law Center, we took Jackson and DeVos to court on behalf of SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center to overturn Jackson’s rollback and restore Title IX protections.
Apart from gutting Title IX protections, Jackson’s tenure has also been marked by a dramatic decline in enforcement of protections for LGBTQ students, and a refusal to work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to identify education lenders who discriminate against minority students.
What we still want to know:
- After helping to roll back federal protections for sexual assault survivors, what are Jackson’s next priorities that will affect the lives of students across the country?
- How else has Jackson’s selective coordination with men’s rights groups informed Ed’s decision making?
- What has Jackson been doing as a member of Ed’s Regulatory Taskforce?
- What has been Jackson’s role in weakening protections for minority and LGBTQ students?