People For the American Way

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Wants to Gut Sexual Violence Guidance—Students and Schools Need More Time to Respond

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Wants to Gut Sexual Violence Guidance—Students and Schools Need More Time to Respond

On September 22, 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the rescission of Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools should address sexual violence. The replacement policy announced on November 16, 2018 is extensive—drastically altering students’ rights and affecting almost every aspect of a school’s obligation to respond to incidents of sexual violence and harassment. While it will be open for public comment before becoming final, the proposed 60-day comment period comes at a particularly busy time for students and administrators alike. People For the American Way and allied organizations are calling for an extension so that those most affected have a chance to weigh in. You can download our letter here.

Dear Secretary DeVos and Assistant Secretary Marcus:

The National Women’s Law Center and the undersigned 123 organizations and 231 individuals request that the Department of Education extend the comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) entitled Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance (RIN 1870-AA14) for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. We also encourage you to schedule public hearings at school districts and college campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.

The proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching. If finalized, they will drastically alter students’ rights and will affect almost every aspect of a school’s obligation to respond to sexual harassment against students, which includes support services, investigations, and resolution procedures. These proposals will also impact all levels of our nation’s educational system, resulting in changes for millions of students, from kindergarten to graduate school. For a regulation of this magnitude, interested parties need adequate time to thoroughly review the proposed changes and provide essential analysis and input.

School administrators, teachers, advocates, parents, and especially students, deserve the opportunity to be meaningfully heard in this process. Yet the proposed 60-day period comes in the midst of the holiday season. This is a particularly busy time for students, who are juggling final exams, preparations for winter break, and traveling home for the holidays. Teachers and school administrators are similarly overburdened. As agencies routinely extend comment periods based on public requests, we ask that the comment period be extended to accommodate these unique challenges faced by students and educators—those whose rights and obligations will be most affected by these proposed changes.

When Secretary DeVos announced her intentions to alter Title IX, she promised to “launch a transparent notice-and-comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties” and “seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise, and the experiences of students”1 to inform any proposed changes. We ask that the Department affirm its commitment to a wide-reaching notice-and-comment period by extending the deadline by 60 days and holding public hearings with community stakeholders. Doing so will ensure that those most affected by these proposed changes are given the opportunity to engage and give the Department the benefit of a robust rule-making process. For questions, please contact Emily Martin (emartin@nwlc.org) or Shiwali Patel (spatel@nwlc.org) at the National Women’s Law Center at (202) 588-5180.