(Washington, D.C.) –
Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate education committee, sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos raising a number of serious concerns regarding the Department’s draft plans to make schools less accountable for addressing sexual assault under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—a landmark civil rights law that provides important protections for students against sexual harassment, including assault. In the letter, Senator Murray called on the Department to postpone the rulemaking process in order to revisit their plan and address the concerns voiced by students, parents, and school personnel. She also outlined how the Department’s actions would undermine current protections for survivors of sexual assault, and requested additional information from the Department about its stakeholder engagement and analysis of its draft proposal. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) also joined the letter.“We are deeply alarmed by the news reports about, and the leaked draft of, the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) potential proposed regulations governing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), a law that is critical in ensuring equal opportunity in education regardless of sex.
The draft regulations suggest a blatant disregard of the law’s intentions by redefining a school’s legal obligation under Title IX in a way that would weaken the law, undermine fundamental protections for survivors of sexual assault, harassment, rape, or other forms of sex discrimination, and empower schools to ignore discriminatory, unlawful behavior against students. We are concerned that the rule does not reflect input from students and survivors whose voices deserve to be heard, and we ask that the Department refrain from publishing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) until it is clear that survivors’ voices have been fully considered and addressed in any proposed regulations,” Senator Murray wrote.Criticizing changes that weaken transparency for institutions claiming religious exemptions from Title IX protections against discrimination on the basis of sex, Senator Murray continued, “In practice, the draft regulation envisions a system of unaccountable and secret institutions where civil rights protections can be disregarded—where an unmarried mother may be denied admission, where a young woman could be thrown out for using birth control, and where a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender student could be subjected to cruel punishment at the school. Without question, this scheme will lead to unnecessary discrimination against students based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, and marital status.”