More than a hundred gender equity groups have called on President-elect Joe Biden to “reverse the damage caused by the Trump administration” with the adjusted Title IX regulations made by the US Department of Education. These civil rights advocates believe that the reforms were “harmful” and ignorant of what sexual assault survivors go through.
In a signed letter, the organizations, which include the National Women’s Law Center and Know Your IX, called on the Biden administration to consider their recommendations and assist in the fight to end sexual violence in academic institutions.
The letter states that the Department of Education under Biden must stop the implementation of reformed Title IX regulations and begin drafting new policies.
“Pending new rulemaking, we ask that the Department promptly release interim guidance, drawn from key portions of earlier guidance addressing Title IX protections against sexual harassment in schools, and also addressing related issues that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads.
Title IX Under The Trump Administration
Title IX revisions under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sought to address criticism of Barack Obama’s 2011 mandates. Following resistance against the strict enforcement of policies against the accused, DeVos’ new rules required colleges to presume that alleged perpetrators are innocent prior to an investigation.
The new rules were created to secure due process for both parties as colleges are required to provide live hearings and cross-examinations. However, various groups that support sexual assault and harassment victims believe that these actions will further discourage and traumatize survivors.
Sage Carson of Know Your IX stated, “The final rule makes it harder for survivors to report sexual violence, reduces schools’ liability for ignoring or covering up sexual harassment, and creates a biased reporting process that favors respondents and schools over survivors’ access to education. All this as students struggle to find housing, keep up with online classes, and pay rent as the unemployment rate soars.”
While New York-based attorney Andrew Miltenberg believes that cross-examination may be difficult, it is nevertheless necessary to validate the testimonies of both parties.
The letter stated that the Biden administration must work to strengthen a new Title IX by “conducting a listening tour with students and survivors” and restoring “investigations of systemic discrimination at institutions, including of how schools respond to sexual harassment.”
These gender equity groups also recommend increasing federal support and resources for initiatives that work to stop sexual harassment such as a White House Task Force to develop policies and other resources for schools.
Other key steps include the appointment of “diverse and highly-qualified
individuals who are committed to gender justice and ending sexual violence” and a call to improve the process of collecting sex-based harassment data that can help school administrators accurately report sex-based crimes happening within their institutions.