Groups Detail “Chilling Effects” of Secretary DeVos’s Unlawful Rollback of Title IX Survivor Protections

Friday, July 26, 2019


Release Issued by Democracy Forward:

Groups Detail “Chilling Effects” of Secretary DeVos’s Unlawful Rollback of Title IX Survivor Protections

In New Legal Filing, Plaintiffs Say Abandoned Guidance Deters Victims From Coming Forward, Delays Investigations of Sexual Violence Claims

Washington, D.C. —  Advocates for campus survivors of sexual violence submitted new court filings that detail the barriers to justice erected by Secretary Betsy DeVos’s unlawful rollback of Title IX protections. The submissions were attached to the groups’ motion for summary judgment in their ongoing lawsuit to reinstate protections for student survivors.

The plaintiff groups SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center are represented by Democracy Forward, the National Center for Youth Law, and the National Women’s Law Center. The suit asserts that the Trump administration’s actions violate federal law because the administration failed to provide any reasoned explanation for the 2017 rollback, and did not adequately consider the harmful effects on students.

SurvJustice has seen a 36% decrease in the number of sexual violence surviors seeking assistance between 2016 to 2018, many students citing concerns about the admistration’s 2017 Title IX changes. For at least three clients, their Title IX complaint has been pending for 200-500 days.

As a result of the unlawful 2017 rollback:

  • Confidentiality is reduced as schools must disclose the identity of survivors to the alleged assailant

  • The accused is allowed to directly question a survivor during a Title IX proceeding

  • Schools can refuse to investigate off-campus misconduct, leaving students of community colleges and vocational schools at particular risk because they do not live on campus

  • Title IX proceedings can be unreasonably delayed as schools no longer have to consider a 60-day benchmark period to swiftly resolve investigations

Equal Rights Advocates described the case of a community college professor who “demanded that certain female students answer his calls after hours, meet him off campus to [review] coursework, and allow him to drive them home after class.” Under the Trump administration’s changes, schools could choose to ignore these acts of harassment.

This is a “fundamental disregard for the purpose and meaning of Title IX,” the Victim Rights Law Center submitted.

Case Timeline

In January 2018, SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center filed suit against Secretary DeVos’s harmful Title IX policy.

 A second amended complaint was filed in October 2018.

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the United State District Court for the Northern District of California in April 2019.

The motion for summary judgment was filed July 25, 2019.

Following additional briefing, the parties anticipate oral arguments in October 2019.