On November 16, 2018, the Department of Education released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address how schools receiving federal funding respond to sexual violence under Title IX. There will be a 60-day comment period before these proposed rules go into effect. According to the proposed rule changes, schools must let the accused cross-examine their accuser through a third party, which could be incredibly triggering and traumatic for a survivor. In addition, the rules severely narrow the definition of sexual harassment; encourage schools to use a higher standard of evidence; and will no longer be required to investigate reports of sexual assault that involve students off-campus.
The following is a statement from Beth Barnhill, the Executive Director for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault:
No one’s education should be interrupted by sexual assault. The proposed rule changes shamefully roll back protections and rights for survivors. Secretary DeVos claims the rules will help to “balance” the scales for survivors and those who cause harm, but in fact they make it harder for survivors to come forward for help. Under this proposal, schools have little or no accountability that would ensure the safety of their students. These rules place the rights of someone who causes harm in higher regard than the rights of a survivor, effectively silencing survivors who are already fearful to come forward.
We are an organization that provides free legal services to student survivors in middle school, high school, and colleges across the state. We’ve seen the damage sexual assault and harassment have on an individual’s education. As such, we stand in fierce opposition to these harmful changes. The Department owes it to survivors to get this right. As it stands now, it’s a complete sham.