- Schools must dismiss any complaints of sexual misconduct that occur outside of campus-controlled buildings and/or educational activities. This means that sexual violence, including sexual assaults, harassment, intimate partner violence, and stalking that happen during study abroad or in off-campus housing are not covered under Title IX. WIth 84.4% percent of students living off campus and rates of assault an estimated five times higher in study abroad programs, this change makes no sense.
- Colleges must allow live cross-examination by the ‘representative’ of each party’s choosing. This means survivors can be cross-examined by their rapists’ parents, friends, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters greatly increase the risk of re-traumatization.
- The new rule allows schools to drag students through lengthy and burdensome investigations without reason. The final rule removes the previous 60 day requirement for investigations without providing an alternative. Prior to previous guidance—and Education Department oversight—schools frequently drew investigations out for months or even a full year. Schools forced survivors to undergo an unnecessarily lengthy, traumatic process that often led to survivors dropping out of an investigation, or out of school entirely. Neither survivors nor respondents deserve to have an unnecessarily long investigation disrupt their education.
- The definition of sexual harassment is narrowed to include only instances that are severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive. By raising the bar this high, the rule is functionally preventing survivors from accessing justice and telling countless survivors that their experiences are not valid.
- Mediation is allowed in cases of sexual assault, rape, dating violence, and domestic violence. Informal resolutions are allowed on a voluntary basis by both parties, a process that was not permitted under previous guidance. The lack of accountability in mediation will worsen the already imbalanced power dynamic between survivors and perpetrators. Career mediators agree that mediation should not be used in instances of gender-based violence as it has the potential to further traumatize survivors.
- Religiously-affiliated institutions can claim a Title IX exemption even after they are charged with discrimination. Religious schools have no obligation to inform their students whether they are still adhering to Title IX and can be exempt without submitting a waiver to the Department of Education. This means that students at religious schools are being stripped of their rights without any notice of it.
- This policy greatly reduces a school’s obligation to act against sexual harassment . Schools are shielded from liability provided they are not shown to be ‘deliberately indifferent’. Raising the liability standard for schools that ignore sexual violence removes accountability, allowing schools to claim they weren’t aware of the violence occurring
- You can only file a complaint against someone who attends your university. This means that if you are assaulted at the school across the street, you have no right to open a Title IX complaint against that person on your campus. This will force students to turn to law enforcement or additional legal routes to ensure that their perpetrator will be held accountable and will cause no further harm.
- Know Your IX and activists around the country have already won key victories by flooding the Department of Education with comments. The removal of attacks on the Preponderance of Evidence standard and inclusion of supportive measures even for students whose cases don’t fit updated definitions of harassment is evidence that our organizing works.
Several parts of the rule contain “mays”, or policies that allow the schools some discretion in what is adopted. And this is where we need your help. In order to ensure that all students are able to access an education free from gender-based violence, it’s critical that schools implement the policies that are least harmful to student survivors. If you are interested in organizing at your school (alumni that includes you), the petition toolkit has everything you need. It includes basic education on the guidance and its potential harms, talking points for interviews or other press opportunities, a petition to circulate at your school advocating for the implementation of specific “mays”, strategies for identifying targets and delivering your petition, and sample social media posts. We need you to make it clear that we won’t allow sexual violence to be swept under the rug.
Below is a petition to use to pressure your school to make change:
Petition for K-12 Schools and School Districts
Petition for Colleges and Universities
Now that you know what’s in the rule and you want to organize, it’s time to identify your targets.
Targets are the people that have the power to enact the changes you are petitioning, and they are always people, not groups, boards, or institutions. You will have both primary and secondary targets. You can do the Power Mapping Exercise below to help get your team started. Find out who at your college has the power to make your demands happen.
Once you have identified these power-holders, research their stances and previous actions on gender-based violence issues. It will also be helpful to research past sexual and dating violence activism on your campus to learn what changes have been made before, and which administrators, faculty, or staff were involved. If you find that you are not able to work with these administrators, research other individuals or groups on campus that could help you pressure the key power-holders. Consider reaching out to alumni, prominent donors, and others who may support your cause.
For High Schools:
High Schoolers should focus on targeting their district instead of their individual schools since their schools likely do not have the power to change their sexual misconduct policies. First, you should identify your district’s Title IX Coordinator, while they likely don’t have enough power to change policy, they are a good person to get on your side. Most likely, your primary targets are your district’s Superintendent and the Board of Education because they determine the district’s policies. You should look at your district’s website to find out when the board meets and how you can sign up to address the board. Since most in-person meetings are probably not happening right now, see if they are hosting virtual events you can join.
Often, campus administrations are complex. It can be difficult to identify who holds the power to make the decisions you need. Sometimes, administrators who don’t want to address your concerns claim that they can’t help you and send you in circles. Other times, you’ll find certain administrators almost impossible to work with. Identifying targets is crucial for having an efficient and impactful campaign on campus.
There are both primary targets and secondary targets. Primary targets can directly give you what you want, whereas secondary targets often have power over your primary targets and are typically more accessible. For example, if you’re campaigning to help nurses on campus become more trauma informed, a primary target might be an administrator in the Health Services office, while a secondary target might be the Board of Trustees.
Here is a list of potential targets. Please note that this list is not complete and that targets will vary from campus to campus.
- University President
- Title IX coordinator
- Office of General Council
- Student Government
If you’re having trouble identifying targets, don’t panic. It can be helpful to research histories of student advocacy on campus to see who previous groups have identified as targets. You can also reach out directly to older student activists or activists alums, talk with student government leaders who understand the decision making process behind the scenes, or connect with other advocacy groups on campus to compare experiences.
1. Identify your primary targets. Who has the power to make the changes you demand? Since the decision-makers have the most power, you will put them near the top.
2. Decide if each power-holder is more likely to be supportive or opposed to you and place them along the chart accordingly from left to right.
3. Identify your secondary targets. Who else has power in your community? Who can influence the primary targets you listed? Write them down and place them depending on how much power they have and if they would oppose or support you.
4. It can be helpful to draw lines connecting the targets so you know how the targets influence each other.
One critical aspect of petitioning, creating the petition, has already been done for you. The provided petition contains multiple concrete demands, but you can feel free to add additional demands that may be relevant to your school. Ensure that all demands are legal and feasible. If you’re unsure of the strength of a demand, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance.
Your primary responsibility will be to collect signatures for your petition. The more signatures you have, the more support you’re demonstrating for the associated demands. For this petition, it is critical to show support from those who will be directly impacted by the policies your school implements, such as students and alumni. It’s also important for you to utilize signatures as a way of tracking those that support your demands. Having students include their e-mail address with their signature can be helpful in the future when you’re working on advertising and gaining traction for the petition delivery. Gathering signatures can be done in a multitude of ways:
- Online: share the petition widely and frequently across social media, message people directly to ask them to sign on, email blast any listservs you may belong to, contact student groups directly, or ask those who have already signed to share the petition as well. Ask your teachers for a minute or so in class to advertise the petition, or speak at club meetings and other virtual school events.
- If you can be in-person: rent a table on the quad or at another heavily populated student area.
While we are unable to organize in-person at the moment, something Betsy DeVos is well aware of, we can still pressure our schools to act. Here are some ideas:
Publish an op-ed: Media coverage is a critical tool in a student activist’s playbook. One powerful way to secure coverage is through publishing an opinion piece, known as an “op-ed,” in your local paper. These pieces typically run from 500 to 700 words and can help get your message out, spur cultural change, and put pressure on the government or your college’s administration. An op-ed would be a great place to show your community how DeVos’ rules would impact students, and pressure your school to take action. Don’t forget to always include your call to action in your op-ed. You can use the talking points in this toolkit to help you write your op-ed.
If you want help drafting or publishing your op-ed, KYIX can help!
Host a virtual town hall: School closures doesn’t mean we can’t engage with administrators. Invite key targets to join you for a virtual town hall so students can share why these changes are important to them. This can be an important space for administrators to hear directly from students about how the changes would impact them. A virtual town hall is also a great space to directly ask school administrators to commit to your demands.
Conduct a letter writing campaign: Encourage students, alumni, and parents to write letters to your school. You can provide talking points or a model letter, and then encourage classmates to personalize the message. Make sure to provide contact information for the school official to whom you want letters sent. You might also ask letter-writers to “BCC” you so you can keep track of what the administration is hearing.
Flood your school’s social media: A great way to get the attention of your school is to post your demands on social media. You might not be able to occupy your admin’s office right now, but you can flood the replies of their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Ask folks that sign your petition to post the demands on every post from your school to make your campaign hard to ignore. The more people, the better!
Organize alumni. Graduates of your school are helpful allies! A first step might be to invite alumni to sign your petition or participate in a letter writing campaign. Or ask them to take it up a notch: A great tactic is for alumni to refuse to donate to the school until they institute your demands. Consider reaching out to alumni you already know or researching graduates whose values are aligned. Alumni who sit on school committees may be particularly powerful allies, though they may be less willing to join in the cause.
Go on strike: If you have students who double as employees for your university -- say, grad students -- that you know are allies in the fight against sexual violence, going on strike, especially now, will send a big message to the administration. For graduate students and TAs at most colleges nationwide, there are still exams to grade. This is a serious action that sends a big message, and requires a strong network of trust throughout your community, but if you already have existing relationships with folks in these positions, it’s worth trying to build out. Bear in mind that a strike requires more than a few people, and the fewer participants there are, the easier it will be for the administration to reduce your message to “a small but loud minority,” as well as target and pressure your strike participants to back down. “Strength in numbers” is especially key here.
This is obviously not an extensive list of all organizing options available to you. As long as you are putting pressure on your targets, get creative!
When speaking with the media, talking points are super helpful to stay on message as you can reference certain specific points in the rule during broader discussions. Additionally, it is important to utilize your strengths. If there are portions of the rule that you do not understand or feel comfortable speaking on pivot to another section that you are more familiar with.
General Talking Points- Top line
- At a time when students should be focusing on final exams and papers and on keeping themselves and their communities safe and healthy, they are instead being forced to contend with the uncertainty of their civil rights. Survivors who have reported don’t know whether or when their cases will move forward. Survivors who have not reported are weighing whether it’s really worth it to move forward. And students who experience abuse and harassment in the coming months will not know if they can turn to their schools for help. All of this undermines Title IX, leaving campuses less safe and students less able to access education free from discrimination.
- DeVos’s rule doesn’t have students in mind; it caters to universities and their bottom lines.
- DeVos is not interested in procedural protections. She is looking to reduce reporting, save schools money, and let schools off the hook for covering up or ignoring sexual violence.
- One of the most worrisome parts of the new rule is that it would allow schools to ignore all violence that happens off-campus or online, even if the victim is forced to see their rapist at school every day. [Talk about why that’s so bad.]
- If the rule goes into effect, parts of it do give schools some narrow options. Like the choice between the clear and convincing standard of evidence and the more appropriate preponderance standard. Schools must make the right decisions with the leeway they have to prove their support for survivors while still complying with federal law.
- The purpose of Title IX is to restore survivors’ access to education, which is why a majority of students go to their school to receive supportive measures after experiencing violence. Now, most student survivors might not be able to get that support from their school: either because of where the violence occurred, or because it doesn’t rise to DeVos’ extremely high and burdensome definition of harassment.