Fighting for Women's Equality

New Filing Details DeVos’s Unlawful Actions in Title IX Rollbacks

April 18, 2019 | by

After Judge Reverses Trump Admin Attempt to Dismiss Case, Groups Press Legal Challenge to DeVos’s Rollback of Survivor Protections


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Washington, DC — Today, Democracy Forward, the National Center for Youth Law, and the National Women’s Law Center, on behalf of plaintiffs Equal Rights Advocates, SurvJustice, and Victim Rights Law Center, amended their lawsuit challenging Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s unlawful reversal to Title IX protections for student survivors of sexual violence. On March 29, 2019, a federal court reconsidered its earlier dismissal of the case, allowing plaintiffs’ to proceed to the merits. Today’s new filing details how Secretary DeVos violated the Administrative Procedure Act to eliminate protections that prevent a discriminatory educational environment.

Secretary DeVos’s ill-considered changes to the Department’s Title IX policy significantly reduce protections that schools must provide to sexual violence survivors. This policy change violates the Administrative Procedure Act because the Administration provided no reasoned explanation for it and did not adequately consider its harmful effects on students.  Among its harmful effects, DeVos’s unlawful policy change:

  • Removes protections for sexual harassment victims, allowing schools to resolve complaints through mediation between the parties, even in cases of alleged sexual assault, where the pressure to agree to mediation can be coercive.
  • Discourages interim measures aimed at protecting the safety of students who complain of sexual harassment. Where needed, such measures often allow schools to provide a revised class schedule or a new housing assignment.

“The Trump administration broke the law in pursuit of an agenda that harms survivors of sexual violence,” said Anne Harkavy, Executive Director of Democracy Forward. “Secretary DeVos and the administration tried to silence us in our fight against this unlawful action, but we will not be deterred. ”

In January 2018, SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center filed suit against Secretary DeVos’s harmful Title IX policy. A second amended complaint was filed in October 2018. After the court reconsidered its ruling on the administration’s attempt to dismiss the case, the plaintiffs filed this amended complaint today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

“Equal Rights Advocates joined this suit because we stand with student survivors and because the longstanding rule of law prohibits sexual violence in education,” said Noreen Farrell, Executive Director. “The Trump Administration will never get a free pass from us to trample on students’ rights to be safe enough to learn. Today’s filing reaffirms our commitment to keep up this important fight.”


Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) is a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls.

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

SurvJustice is a survivor-led national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for all survivors of sexual violence through effective legal assistance, policy advocacy, and institutional training.

Victim Rights Law Center is the first nonprofit law center in the country solely focused on the legal needs of sexual assault victims.

The National Women’s Law Center has worked for more than 40 years to protect and promote equality and opportunity for women and families. We champion policies and laws that help women and girls achieve their potential at every stage of their lives — at school, at work, at home, and in retirement. Our staff are committed advocates who take on the toughest challenges, especially for the most vulnerable women.

The National Center for Youth Law is a non-profit law firm that helps low-income children achieve their potential by transforming the public agencies that serve them.


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