NCA Opposes Planned Title IX Rule Changes

Tuesday, January 15, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Blake Warenik; 202-548-0090 x122; bwarenik@nca-online.org

Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building in Washington, D.C.

(WASHINGTON)—National Children’s Alliance (NCA) submitted comments today to the U.S. Department of Education opposing proposed changes to Title IX rules protecting equal access to education. NCA encourages its member Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) to submit their own comments opposing the proposed changes before the deadline on January 28, 2019, CACs and members of the public may use NCA’s comments as a basis for their own.  NCA’s submitted comments are available here:

See NCA’s Title IX comments to the U.S. Department of Education

Submit comments to Department of Education before January 28, 2019

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that requires elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities to provide students equal access to education. Included in Title IX is the requirement that schools ensure services and safety for students after sexual harassment, including after sexual abuse and assault. In NCA’s comments, we explain why these changes proposed by the U.S. Department of Education would detrimentally alter the process of ensuring services and safety for students.

This rule change has been framed at times as a response to allegations of sexual assault on college campuses. However, Title IX requirements apply to all schools, including K-12 students who attend them. Curtailing Title IX protections would hurt not only young adults in college, but also children in our schools. At NCA, we share with our member CACs grave concerns about how this proposed rule change would impact children in throughout the country who are victims of sexual abuse. The proposed rule change:

  1. Ignores research on the warning signs of child sexual abuse and disregards what we know about prevention.The proposed rule changes the definition of sexual harassment in the law by taking out types of sexual misconduct that don’t rise to the level of severe and pervasive, meaning inappropriate comments online by a teacher or a one-time instance of groping by a peer might not be eligible for a Title IX complaint. We know that for child sexual abuse in particular, abusers use coercion over time to build trust with kids through inappropriate behaviors to accomplish abuse. The rule change would mean schools will no longer be required to provide certain supports to students after they disclose these inappropriate or “grooming” behaviors.
  2. Exempts schools from their responsibility to respond to the needs of, and provide protection for, student victims, if the harassment or assault occurred in a setting other than an officially sanctioned school activity. NCA has concerns with the proposal that a Title IX response is only triggered if the assault or harassment occurred as a part of the official educational programs or activities of the school. In many communities, schools act as a community hub and are used for a wide range of community activities. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment and assault may occur as frequently in these events as those that are officially sanctioned as educational events.  Moreover, peer-on-peer harassment and abuse that occurs outside the school or educational program setting has the same profound impact on students as that which occurs within the educational setting.
  3. Allows for administrative hearings in ways that could compromise criminal investigations and re-traumatize victims. Kids will become subject to traumatizing questions and invasive conversations through the proposed rule. The rule allows for an informal mediation process that may be led by an untrained adult. This creates the potential for cross examination of the student by their abuser, which will cause further trauma to the survivor. Additionally, the proposed rule provides schools with the option to raise the evidentiary standard used to determine if abuse or harassment occurred. This will make it less likely that students can receive the services they so desperately need.

 

Read more from the U.S. Department of Education

NCA, along with our members and national partners, will be providing more information about taking action and participating in public comment about this proposed rule in the near future. Public comments on this rule are due by January 28, 2019. Stay tuned: sign up for our advocacy alerts.