BARCC is submitting public comment to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos detailing the reasons why the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education (OCR-DOE) should not adopt a proposed Title IX rule related to responding, investigating and adjudicating reports of sexual assault and misconduct in schools that receive federal funding. (Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities.)
As we stated in our comment, BARCC believes the proposed rule “reinforces myths about sexual violence, favors offenders, and undermines procedural justice for survivors.” That is unfortunate given the epidemic of campus sexual assault and harassment and its effect on survivors, who may become “depressed and anxious, fall behind in their school work, and even drop out of school.” We can and must do better by survivors if we are to change campus climate around sexual assault.
The following excerpt from our comment on how the new proposed rule makes it impossible to provide procedural justice for survivors is the fifth and final post in our series breaking down our reasons for opposing it. Read parts one, two, three, and four.
Procedural justice is the simple act of taking sexual violence complaints seriously and implementing transparent response policies and protocols. In addition to the reasons outlined above, the proposed new rule makes it impossible for schools to provide procedural justice impossible in several significant ways. First, schools seeking an exemption from Title IX on religious grounds will no longer be required to send a letter to OCR-DOE requesting the exemption by asserting that the school is controlled by a religious organization and identifying which parts of the law conflict with the school’s religious tenets. Without these letters, it will be impossible for the U.S. Department of Education or any other entity to track which schools are choosing to opt out of Title IX provisions, the date at which they opted out, and on what grounds. This means that prospective and current students at religious schools effectively have no way of knowing what their rights are.
Second, schools will no longer need to complete a Title IX investigation within 60 days. The proposed new rule only requires “reasonably prompt timeframes” and can delay an investigation indefinitely if an outside criminal investigation is also taking place. This means that students who report sexual harassment or assault might have to wait months or even longer for an investigation to be completed, and they will have no way of knowing how long the investigation is likely to take.
Third, and most significantly, the proposed new rule dramatically eases the threshold by which a school can be found to be in violation of Title IX. Since 1997, OCR-DOE has required schools to respond promptly and with appropriate remedies in response to sexual harassment. The proposed new rule would require proof that a school had been “deliberately indifferent” to complaints and that recommended remedies were “clearly unreasonable” to be in violation of their Title IX civil rights obligations. What this lowering of expectations means: schools will not be held accountable for providing the necessary and appropriate response to sexual violence. What message does this send to survivors considering coming forward? That it’s okay if schools do a mediocre or bad job. This is unacceptable.
If you think survivors deserve to be believed, then please join us in urging the U.S. Department of Education to reconsider its proposed new regulations for Title IX by submitting a public comment by Wednesday, January 30, at 11:59 p.m.
Wondering how to make your comment effective? Here are a few tips:
- Use your own words for the most impact! Your comment is more likely to be taken into consideration if it’s not a duplicate message from a template.
- Incorporate personal stories to support your arguments.
- If you have a particular perspective or expertise, whether as a survivor, an advocate, a lawyer, etc., make note of it!
- Include suggested solutions to your concerns. We don’t just want to say what’s wrong; we also want to help guide how the problems can be fixed.
Updated January 24, 2019, to reflect new public comment deadline.