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We Won’t Go Back! Send a Comment to Support Title IX Protections

September 14, 2017
NOW leaders are encouraged to send in the following formatted comments or write one of their own to advocate for continuation of the Department of Education’s current regulations and guidance that benefit all students by assuring their protection under civil rights laws. Federal civil rights laws protect students from discrimination on the basis of sex (Title IX); race, color and national origin (Title VI); and disability (Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
Title IX Protections at Risk - NOW and many other advocates for women’s and girls’ equal access to education are very concerned with a recent announcement by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that suggests the Department will overhaul important guidance on the adjudication of claims of sexual misconduct. Various statements made by the Secretary suggest to us that the changes may make it very difficult for student survivors of sexual assault to prove their claims, to remain safe in school, and to receive the support services they need to complete their education.
Should Take Only 10 minutes of Your Time - Please send your comment as soon as you can; you can use all of part of the suggested comment below. Just copy the comment (or write your own) and go to https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=ED-2017-OS-0074-0001 where you will drop the comment in the interactive window. The page asks for your name, whether you want to provide your contact information and which category your comment represents: most likely choice is Individual or Association/Organization, but you may fit other categories such as Educator. Click on the Continue tab to go to the page where you can submit your comment.
PLEASE NOTE: The extended deadline for submission of your comments is now Wednesday, Sept. 20, at 11:59 p.m.  Also, the regulations.gov website will be undergoing scheduled maintenance and will be unavailable Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET)
Ms. Hilary Malawer
Assistant General Counsel
Office of the General Counsel
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Assistant General Counsel Hilary Malawer,
I am writing out of concern about recent reports of a proposed review of the Department of Education’s April 2011 Dear Colleague letter--which provides guidance to educational institutions for the adjudication of sexual misconduct reports. From comments made by Secretary DeVos, it appears that there may be an intention to withdraw that guidance and replace it with a set of legally-enforceable requirements, possibly drawing from procedures developed by criminal prosecutors. Further, there may be an intention to narrow the definition of what constitutes sexual misconduct and to change the current standard of “preponderance of evidence” to a stricter standard. Any of these possible changes will make it far more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to prevail in their claim and to receive protections currently made available under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, an important civil rights law protecting both female and male students from sex-based discrimination.
Current federal regulations and guidance help all students—regardless of sex, race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or disability status—receive the benefit of our civil rights laws. That is why I am urging the Department of Education not to repeal, replace, or modify current civil rights regulations. The Department should also preserve all current significant guidance documents, such as the guidance on: sexual harassment (including the April 2011 Dear Colleague Letter containing guidance on sexual violence) ; racial and disability-based harassment; access to athletic opportunities; gender equity in career and technical education; equal access to educational resources; nondiscriminatory school discipline; racial diversity programs; the rights of students with disabilities in charter schools; restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities; and the rights of English language learners.
To be effective, however, the federal government must enforce the law, provide oversight, and proactively work to ensure that students’ rights are realized. Current regulations and guidance help make students’ rights a reality and must be maintained.
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