Sweeping New Title IX Rules Put Students At Risk
The US Department of Education today released new rules that seek to take protections away from student survivors of sexual assault while encouraging schools to protect perpetrators.
The new regulations amount to a permission slip for colleges, universities, and K-12 schools to dramatically roll back their obligations to investigate sexual assault and harassment and undermine the requirement that they provide a fair process to survivors. The changes encourage schools to ignore reports of sexual assault and create barriers for survivors to access their rights to receive an education in a safe environment.
“At a time when campuses nationwide are shuttered by a deadly virus and when students are having trouble accessing even basic education, there could not be a worse time to adopt sweeping, needless and harmful rules that put students more at risk,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “NCTE is calling on schools, colleges and universities to reject the invitation to roll back protections and to instead support student survivors of sexual assault and harassment. We also have a message to survivors: We see you and we support you, even if the president and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos do not.”
Transgender people experience extremely high rates of sexual violence, with nearly half (47%) experiencing sexual assault in their lifetime, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Transgender people of color experienced even higher rates of sexual assault.
The rule also gives many schools sweeping latitude to claim a religious exemption to Title IX without notifying the Department of Education or students in advance, meaning that a school could expel a student for being outed as transgender and retroactively assert that they are exempt from Title IX’s requirements.
Currently, schools who wish to exploit Title IX’s already-sweeping religious exemption and adopt policies that single out LGBTQ students need to give advance notice to the Department of Education—meaning that at least students know that a school could kick them out because of who they are before deciding whether to enroll. This rule goes beyond current law and allows schools to use exemptions as a get-out-of-jail-free card after discriminating against an LGBTQ student.
“Transgender people understand what it means to have our experiences ignored and put on trial. This rule creates new barriers between transgender survivors and a decent education,” Keisling said. “These new rules will deny transgender students fair access to a safe educational experience and push many away from reporting abuse at all. The Trump administration is turning back the clock to a time when rape, sexual abuse, and harassment were swept under rug and ignored.”
In March, NCTE 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 new Title IX rules during the COVID-19 national emergency. That request was ignored.