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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking
Source: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Everything You Need To Know About DeVos’ Title IX Ruling

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May 15 2020, Published 4:55 a.m. ET

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Courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Advocacy organizations and student activists are protesting the Department of Education’s proposed ruling of Title IX for the entirety of the Trump administration. The proposed ruling would change the way students in K-12 and universities in our country would handle cases of sexual harassment and assault. The revision to the original proposal started an outcry among survivors and activists throughout the country due to the perception that the ruling would bolster the rights of the accused. Advocacy groups feared that this would stop survivors from coming forward to report such cases. 

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What The Proposed Ruling Means For College Campuses

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The Department of Education reviewed comments and concerns from survivors, student activists and advocacy organizations in order to develop a final version. When the United States government issued a national emergency in mid-March, groups such as Know Your IX and End Rape on Campus begged the Department of Education to hold off on the new Title IX ruling in the interest of the students nationwide. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, released the revisions on May 6, 2020, despite the ongoing pandemic.

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DeVos explained, “Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault. This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process. We can and must continue to fight sexual misconduct in our nation’s schools, and this rule makes certain that fight continues.” 

Know Your IX Manager, Sage Carson, released a statement in the awakening of the new ruling. “Today, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have shown, once again, that they have no interest in supporting student survivors and their rights.” The organization’s statement continues by stating that the new ruling creates a biased reporting process to the respondents and schools over the issue of safety, and fair access to education for survivors. The biggest critique of the new ruling is the power schools hold to not be held liable for knowledge for sexual misconduct, and the strenuous effort it takes for a survivor to follow through with a formal report. 

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What You Need To Know About Potential Changes To Title IX

  1. The violence that occurs in off-campus housing/fraternity houses or study abroad programs will not be considered the school’s responsibility. This directly affects the eighty-seven percent of college students living in off-campus housing. 
  2. There is an increase in barriers to reporting which shield schools from liability against sexual harassment allegations, even if the misconduct was known by the school. Schools are no longer obligated to investigate cases that don’t meet “heightened requirements.” Students may have to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse in order to meet these requirements to ask for their school’s help (Know Your IX).
  3. In 2011, the Obama Administration released what is now known as the “Dear Colleague,” letter (DCL). Prior to DCL, schools encouraged survivors to “work it out” or hold a mediation with one’s perpetrator hindering the number of students filing reports of sexual assault or harassment. The Department of Education has recently reverted back to the original ruling of Title IX which allowed for mediation, prior to the Obama Administration. 
  4. The Department of Education, under the Trump Administration, requires schools to allow for direct cross-examination of both parties, the victim and the accused, at Title IX hearings. With the guidance of the DCL in 2011, it was heavily discouraged to use the practice of mediation as it is argued that it creates a hostile and traumatic environment for the survivor. The Title IX hearing process allowed for the accused student to pose questions to a neutral hearing administrator that relayed the questions further. However, a lawyer or another representative can now directly cross-examine the reporting student, similarly to a criminal trial. 
  5. The school is only required to act if the accused tells the appropriate person about sexual misconduct. The new ruling indicates that any violation of Title IX (i.e. sexual violence, sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of sex), has to be reported to the Title IX coordinator or dean. Previously, any faculty member or staff was an obligated mandatory reporter (e.g., athletic coach, professor, resident advisor). 

Why The Title IX Personally Means

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As a survivor and activist, this new ruling is unsettling for those who face injustice due to discrimination on the basis of sex during their time of receiving an education. Although anyone should receive a fair education, those that jeopardize the safety of other students strip fair access to the victims. Not only does the ruling bolster the rights of the accused, but it also discourages survivors to report cases such as these–allowing universities to cover up or ignore these cases.

As an undergraduate student, I experienced Title IX related issues, but also served as a witness to many survivors attempting to fight for their rights and safety. Additionally, as a member of the university student conduct board, I learned that universities still have their designated handbook that defines sexual violence and harassment violations. However, although some universities may not allow for practices such as cross-examination, this new ruling allows universities to be able to conduct these practices if they choose to do so. Meaning, it is much more difficult to file a Title IX complaint against a university on the federal level. The university has a minimal chance of being stripped of Federal funding, the reason why Title IX was enacted in the first place. 

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org. If you have more questions regarding Title IX please visit Know Your IX at https://www.knowyourix.org/contact/ or End Rape On Campus at https://endrapeoncampus.org/

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By: Devi Jags

Devi Jags is an Entrepreneur, Writer, and Activist. Her work can be seen through her endeavors such as Sambar Kitchen, The Sparkle Bracelet, and much more. She will be pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College in the fall of 2020. To join her journey, follow her work @devijags or visit her website.

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