On June 23, 2020, join us in celebrating the 48th Anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in all educational institutions receiving federal funds. We have fought to protect Title IX since the landmark 1979 case Cannon v. University of Chicago, where the Supreme Court dramatically expanded Title IX’s reach by ruling that individuals can bring their own lawsuits to enforce their rights under Title IX instead of waiting for the government to act.
Title IX has ushered in sweeping changes. The number of girls participating in high school sports has increased tenfold and the number of women in college sports has increased sevenfold. Title IX prohibits discrimination against students on the basis of pregnancy and parenting. It also guarantees students of all genders equal access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses and career and technical education (CTE) programs.
Importantly, Title IX also protects students from sexual harassment and violence. We were a leader, alongside colleague organizations, in realizing Title IX’s full promise of equality in education by litigating the first impact cases resulting in the recognition by courts of teacher-to-student sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. We also joined colleague organizations to successfully advocate for Title IX to apply to peer-on-peer sexual harassment and make schools accountable for anti-gay abuse.
Title IX’s protections remain as essential as ever. Today, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during college and 83 percent of girls are sexually harassed in middle school and high school.
However, Title IX is now under attack. In May 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education implemented its new regulations on Title IX. Despite receiving 124,162 public comments, mostly critical, about the regulations when they were originally proposed, the Department of Education has instructed schools to comply by August 14, 2020.
The new regulations include:
- Severely limit the definition of sexual harassment and require that schools dismiss any complaint that fails to meet the new definition
- Require cross-examination of all parties in college cases, which exposes survivors to further re-victimization and is contrary to long-held court precedent that due process and fairness in school adjudication processes do not require it
- Require schools to dismiss any complaints about off-campus conduct. Since 87% of college students live off-campus and only 8% of sexual assaults are perpetuated on school property, this requirement would also severely limit the efficacy of Title IX
- Fail to protect students reporting harassment from retaliation
- Allow schools to raise the evidentiary standard from “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing,” which shifts the burden of proof in favor of accused students and is out of line with other civil rights standards
- Disproportionately harm students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students since those groups are subjected to particularly high rates of sexual harassment in schools
We have been fighting against these regulations ever since they were proposed. In January 2019, Jennifer Becker, our Deputy Legal Director and former Title IX coordinator for New York City, the largest K-12 public school district in the country, submitted a public comment to the U.S. Department of Education explaining that the new regulations will lead to higher costs for schools and devastation for victims. Becker wrote that “the proposed rules permit, and in places require, institutions to refuse to respond to many instances of sexual harassment and violence...[they] are legally flawed, bad policy, and diminish the mandate of Title IX.”
Sexual assault and harassment have no place in our education system. We at Legal Momentum are deeply committed to a fair process that provides dignity and respect for victims and fairness to all parties. We will not stand by as Betsy DeVos and Department of Education erodes the fundamental rights of students.