Sample language for a meeting request:
Dear Secretary DeVos and Assistant Secretary Marcus:
We are the [xx position] of the [xx student group]. In light of the Department’s rulemaking on Title IX, we write to request a public hearing on behalf of [your state or school] students who have had their educational opportunities compromised by sexual violence and institutional indifference.
[Insert a line about what your organization is]. In order to defend our civil rights, we have organized on our campuses and sought to change how our schools address gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination.
We are concerned that the Department of Education’s commitment to enforcing Title IX has wavered, particularly at a time when hundreds of schools across the country are under investigation for violating students’ rights. We are also disturbed by the Department’s recent refusals to investigate the Title IX complaints of transgender students.
We understand that you have met with a few survivors already in Washington, D.C., but we believe that it is imperative that the voices of students in states like [state] are heard when national decisions are being made. Accordingly, we urge you to schedule a national listening tour and to come to [state]. We are prepared to meet with you during your stay and to share our experiences.
Please let us know if and when you are available to meet.
By phone- 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327)- This is the Department of Education’s general inquiry line. There are speakers available in over 170 languages.
By email- send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org
By mail- Address invitation to:
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Attn: Chelsea Henderson
Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100
Though DeVos has rarely taken the time to speak with survivors and has ignored requests for public hearings in the past, it is important that we show her and the media that there is large public interest in a listening tour. We want to show DeVos a desire to engage in a meaningful dialogue surrounding Title IX and an education free from sexual violence.
If DeVos does not respond to your request, we suggest holding a town hall with cardboard Betsy. Using a cardboard cut-out or other makeshift stand-ins are a great way to make your voice heard (and garner media attention) while holding government officials accountable for not being present and accessible to voters. Here are some examples of organizers who have used this tactic to make some noise on their issue. Sound like the tactic for you? Below are the steps to make this dream a reality!
How to set-up a town hall with cardboard Betsy
Step 1- Find a venue.
You’ll need to find a space that is both accessible and large enough to hold everyone. Contact school gyms, religious congregations, or local college campuses to ask about space availability. Make sure to find out whether or not the location is disability accessible. Are there stairs? Sufficient room for a wheelchair to maneuver? Enough seating? Microphones, interpretation services, or closed captioning? If you are unable to find a space that is fully accessible, be sure to include information on potential barriers when advertising the event.
Step 2- Get a cardboard cut-out.
It’s important to have a physical marker of Betsy’s absence. Check out Cardboard Cutout Standees and Shindigz for your custom cardboard cut-out. Upload a picture to either website that shows as much of Betsy as possible in order to depict her completely in the cut-out. We suggest choosing one of these images.
If getting a cut-out doesn’t fit within your budget, you can also print out a picture to tape to a podium or wall instead.
Step 3- Promote Your Town Hall.
It’s crucial to promote the town hall both to the public and to the media in order to garner the most support and attention. We recommend starting with a Facebook event. In the description of the event, list any potential accessibility issues and allow attendees to ask for other accommodations that aren’t mentioned. Once the event is created, you can share it on your page and in any groups you may find relevant. Groups to consider include local feminist organizations, activists, students, teachers, and parents. Additionally, if there is money in your budget you can pay to boost your event so others will see it. Be sure to share the event frequently to keep it on people’s radars.
Step 4- Engage the Media
Utilizing media outlets are an important part of pulling off a successful event. While it’s easy to forget local media, keep in mind that reporters at local papers are always looking for a juicy story and that local and campus news are sometimes picked up by big national publications.
Send out a Media Advisory before the event. Media Advisories are notices written to alert the media of an upcoming action and are usually sent out up to a week before an action. Media Advisories should include only the essential information about the action—who, what, where, when, and why—in order to allow reporters to plan ahead to cover the action. Include a time for press availability on the day of the action (for when reporters can speak with activists) as well as your contact information.
Be thoughtful in terms of what will make a good news story, as this will make it more likely that media will cover. For example, you may want to note the timeliness of the issue or emphasize the way constituents are being ignored during a process that is supposed to be about receiving public input.
Check out our resources on how to leverage the media for sample media advisories.
Step 5- Show up!
On the day of the town hall, arrive early to ensure the space is setup properly and that any technology you’re using (such as a speaker system) is working. Bring family and friends to show their support and fill the room. Stay connected with media personnel in case they have any issues finding or getting into the building.
Once people settle in, you’ll want to deliver a brief speech on what is going on and why the town hall is being held. It’s important to assume your audience has little to no information on Notice and Comment. You should be prepared to quickly go over Title IX, the Notice and Comment process, and the purpose of the town hall. Let the audience know this is an opportunity to express grievances towards Betsy Devos and the Department of Education specifically surrounding changes to the enforcement of Title IX and the lack of support for student survivors from the Department. Allow participants to come forward to share their story or speak their mind.