September 22, 2017
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Washington, D.C. – Know Your IX, a national, survivor- and youth-led campaign to end sexual violence in schools released the following statement, after the Department of Education announced the withdrawal of the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the 2014 Frequently Asked Questions guidance documents and issued new interim guidance:
“Today’s guidance allows schools to systematically stack campus investigations against survivors and push survivors out of school. The Department of Education is sending the message that they value survivors’ access to education less than that of the students who assault and abuse them.
Before the Department of Education began taking sexual assault seriously, schools routinely violated survivors’ rights and pushed them out of school. Survivors stayed silent for fear that the act of reporting to our school would be more traumatic than the assault itself. The Dear Colleague Letter—which outlined strong procedural protections for survivors and accused students alike—made it possible for survivors to come forward, trusting that their school would handle their case fairly and provide them with the resources they needed to continue their educations. Today, DeVos betrayed that trust and put years of progress at risk.
Title IX is the law and schools’ responsibility to respond to sexual violence is unchanged. Even though, Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education have turned their back on survivors, we will not let universities backslide on their obligation to provide for an equitable and safe learning environment.”
Today’s interim guidance puts survivors at risk by:
- Permitting schools to adopt a “clear and convincing” standard in campus adjudications. This practice is discriminatory against survivors, as it permits schools to accord more value to the education of a respondent than that of a complainant. This action contradicts decades of bipartisan agreement; indeed, in 2004, the Bush Administration found Georgetown University noncompliant with Title IX for using a clear and convincing standard.
- Allowing schools to deny survivors the right to appeal. Past guidance encouraged schools to allow appeals for both survivors and respondents, especially where new evidence arose or procedural issues colored an initial investigation. This doesn’t create fair process: it denies process to student survivors.
- Lifting the prohibitions on mediation and direct cross examination. Before the 2011 DCL, schools pushed survivors to “work it out” with their rapists, fostering a climate where students were afraid to come forward. The Department’s decision to revert back to a harmful status quo will allow for schools and rapists to intimidate survivors into silence. Furthermore, the Department has offered no guidance on how schools should conduct these proceedings, making it even more likely that institutions will violate survivors’ civil rights.
- Removing accountability measures that ensured prompt investigations. The Department has lifted the sixty day requirement and instead stated that “there is no fixed time frame under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation.” Prior to the DCL—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 accused students deserve to have an unnecessarily long investigation disrupt their educations.