While Title IX is often associated with the role that it has had in increasing the participation of women in sports, its impact goes far beyond athletics. Under Title IX protections, colleges, universities, and schools are required to address sexual violence and Obama-era guidelines that clarify obligations for investigating sexual assault cases have been critical in addressing the alarming rates of campus sexual assault.
The law – which celebrated 45 years this past June – prohibits high schools, colleges, and universities receiving federal funding from discrimination on the basis of gender. These protections mean that all students should have equal access to continuing their education in a safe learning environment and free from sexual violence.
According to research, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their college career. If and when sexual assault happens to a student, it should not been the end of their education. Yet, survivors of sexual assault often face hostile learning environments that threaten the future of their education. Under Title IX, colleges, universities, and school districts are required to proactively prevent and respond to claims of sexual violence, sexual harassment, or any other form of gender-based violence.
Those protections are now in jeopardy as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has signaled that the Department of Education would be taking steps to roll back Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors. In a speech on Thursday, DeVos announced that they would be working to replace the current approach to addressing sexual assault on college campuses, emphasizing the need to take into account the “rights of the accused.” And this is not the first time that Secretary DeVos has turned her back on survivors; meeting with a group of “men’s rights” activists about campus sexual assault earlier this year.
Gutting these protections would be devastating to survivors of sexual assault in schools and on campuses that are seeking justice and DeVos’ words are a direct attack on the rights of survivors. We stand ready to push back on the roll back of Title IX protections and will continue to monitor next steps for advocates to take to stand in support of Title IX.