Last week—in the midst of a global pandemic—the U.S. Department of Education released a new rule about when and how schools (from preschool to graduate school) must respond to sexual harassment and violence.
This rule greatly weakens protections afforded by Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. We have been advocating against these changes to the law since 2017. We will not stop now. We will fight to prevent this rule from ever going into effect.
Here are a few ways the new rule would harm student sexual assault survivors:
- The new definition of sexual harassment is so limited that children and adult students will be forced to endure more severe harassment before a school must take action than adult employees must endure before an employer must respond
- Victims of off-campus and online harassment will be ignored entirely
- Student-survivors must follow narrow, specific ways of reporting sexual harassment and assault or their complaints will be ignored
- When a school does investigate, student-survivors will be subjected to a courtroom-like process, with live cross-examination and an uneven standard of proof
The result of this rule: More sexual harassment and violence in schools will go unaddressed. More survivors will be ignored.
Rather than devoting attention to helping schools and their students deal with the effects of the current crisis which has forced schools to quickly redefine education, the Department of Education has instead weakened the protections of federal law which help keep students safe and able to learn equitably.
In three short months when this rule is scheduled to go into effect, schools must find a way to incorporate this harmful rule while they also navigate the new reality of delivering education in a pandemic.
This rule is dangerous. Legal Momentum has worked towards gender equality in education throughout our 50 years. We will not let this rule go into effect unchallenged. Join us. Support our fight against this rule so that no survivor of sexual violence in a school setting has to be ignored and shut out of an education.
Protecting women’s and girls’ rights begins with the law.
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