On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed new rules for schools to adhere to when responding to reports of sexual assault and harassment. The proposed rules fall under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded schools, colleges, and universities. They will replace the department’s interim Title IX guidance and the Obama administration’s 2011 Title IX Guidance to colleges and universities. The original guidance was issued because many schools were violating the requirements of Title IX by ignoring or inadequately responding to widespread complaints of sexual assault. After a 60-day public comment period, the proposed regulations can be finalized and will become law. Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Gina Scaramella issued the following statement in response:
“We are deeply troubled by these proposed changes to how Title IX governs schools, colleges, and universities. Once finalized, these changes will make it more difficult for survivors of sexual assault and harassment to come forward and get the support they deserve from their places of learning.
“These new regulations would decrease a school’s responsibility to act and support survivors to ensure their right to education. They stipulate that representatives for reported offenders have the right to directly cross-examine a survivor, which is a recipe for re-traumatizing someone who has been sexually assaulted. Title IX focuses on ensuring that survivors have timely access to remedies that enable them to continue their education. The law does not call for criminal-legal trials or proceedings.
“In the years since the 2011 guidance, schools, colleges, and universities have made considerable progress in addressing sexual violence on campus. These proposed regulations would undo much of that progress. As a culture, we should be expanding the avenues for survivors to come forward and get support, not narrowing them. We will submit more detailed comment through the public process. In the meantime, we will continue our work with schools, colleges, and universities to strengthen the ways in which they can reduce incidents of sexual violence on campus through prevention and education, and help them improve the ways in which they respond to reports of sexual harassment and assault.”