In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Administration should be prioritizing resources and relief for students and schools, it is instead taking action to make schools less safe. A new set of rules will weaken Title IX’s protections against sexual harassment in schools. When the rules were originally proposed in 2018, the Department of Education received over 125,000 public comments in response, with the majority of people voicing opposition. Then in March of 2020, CenterLink joined more than 200 other organizations and schools in signing a letter to the US Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget urging them to delay finalizing the rules during the COVID-19 national emergency. That request was ignored. The rules are scheduled to take effect on August 14th, 2020 but will be challenged in the courts.
If allowed to take effect, they will:
- Require an unnecessarily demanding burden of proof from the survivor, discouraging students from reporting sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment.
- Mandate schools to begin an investigation of assault or harassment with the presumption that no incident actually occurred, making it seem as if the survivor could be lying.
- Make it harder for students who have experienced sexual assault or harassment to come forward if the incident occurs outside of a school program or activity, even if the student shares a class with or is taught by their assailant.
- Excuse colleges and universities from taking action if a student asks an advisor, coach, or professor for help to address sexual harassment.
- Give religious schools a license to discriminate on the basis of sex without any notice to students or the Department of Education. The school will only need to claim a religious exemption after they are under investigation for violating Title IX.
This is especially concerning for the for the LGBTQ+ community. Research has found that allegations of harassment appeared more frequently in Title IX complaints based on LGBTQ+ identity than in the general population, with nearly 76 percent of such complaints alleging sexual or gender harassment.
For those who want to learn more about organizing within their communities around opposing the rules, join Know Your IX for a webinar on Thursday, May 7th at 4:30pm EST.