In an unsurprising but disappointing move Thursday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that her department would weaken a set of Obama-era requirements for how colleges and universities deal with campus sexual assaults. Under the 1972 Title IX amendments, schools are legally required to respond to any such complaints under the federal civil rights law.
“What we saw today from Secretary DeVos was another failure to put students first,” said Chalis Montgomery, a Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 10th congressional district. “Failing to maintain Title IX protections sets the wrong course, and ignores the progress that the Obama administration made to make our campuses safer for students. The facts are that this program was making measurable progress to address a crisis that has been ignored for far too long.”
Under President Obama, the Office of Civil Rights took the position that the Title IX amendment protects girls and women from the threat of sexual assault, harassment or a hostile environment while pursuing their educations.
Calling it a “failed system,” DeVos falsely equivocated sexual assault victims with the wrongfully accused, stripping the teeth out of federal guidelines for enforcement of Title IX and leaving no new initiative in its place. Instead, according to DeVos, the Department of Education will enter into a public comment period before issuing any new guidelines.
More than 20 state attorneys general had urged DeVos to maintain Title IX protections, and Montgomery agrees. “The decision made by Secretary DeVos could have a chilling effect on survivors and their willingness to report sexual assault and misconduct,” she said. “Title IX protections should be strengthened to help protect victims of sexual assault. We need to stand up for survivors, rather than re-traumatizing many of them with decisions like these.”