Fighting for Women's Equality

Secretary DeVos Attacks Progress Made to End Campus Sexual Assault

September 8, 2017 | by

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her decision to rewrite the Office for Civil Rights’ 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which outlines colleges’ responsibility to address and remedy campus sexual assault under the federal law Title IX. This is just the latest in a series of actions by the Trump Administration to roll-back important civil rights protections. ERA Executive Director Noreen Farrell denounced the move, saying:

“The Secretary of Education’s announcement today is an affront to campus sexual assault victims, who have benefited tremendously from the clarity provided by the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. The cost of an education must not be sexual violence or harassment. Campus sexual assault is a national epidemic, disrupting the education of one in four young women during her college years. Its harm is often compounded by racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. And yet, Secretary DeVos is threatening recent progress made to hold institutions accountable. She has made it clear that supporting students is not her priority.

“But make no mistake: Title IX is still the law of the land. Colleges are still legally required to ensure that sexual violence does not interfere with equal educational opportunities. Secretary DeVos cannot change that obligation.

“We urge the Department of Education to believe survivors and to take its responsibility to students seriously. It is imperative that the Office for Civil Rights live up to its name. Sexual harassment and violence is a civil rights violation and should be treated as such.

“Let us be clear: Equal Rights Advocates will fight alongside sister organizations, parents, survivors, and concerned community members over the coming weeks and months. We will ensure that Secretary DeVos and her staff understand our unwavering commitment to university processes that guarantee fair, equitable, and appropriate civil rights remedies. We stand ready to enforce Title IX, even if the Office for Civil Rights will not.”

Read coverage of the announcement, including reaction from ERA in Elle Magazine and Paper Magazine

While we continue to hold the Department of Education and universities’ feet to the fire, we will also be pushing for strong state legislation. In California, ERA is a proud sponsor of Senate Bill 169 (Jackson), which would require state-funded schools to adhere to guidances similar to those outlined in the Dear Colleague Letter. The bill has passed the Senate and will be voted on in the Assembly next week – write to your Assemblymember today and urge them to vote “yes.” 

Learn more about Title IX and your rights on campus here.

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