Four Democratic lawmakers are demanding that the U.S. Department of Education provide documents related to sweeping changes recently made to federal Title IX regulations. Title IX is a federal civil rights law enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq. The legislation prohibits sex discrimination in hiring, admissions, financial aid, and athletics in federally funded K-12 and colleges and universities.
Changes to Title IX Regulations
Recent changes to Title IX regulations established due process protections for those accused of sexual harassment, assault, or intimate partner violence on college campuses. Among the additions include the right of both the accuser and the accused to cross-examine witnesses. Critics of the change worry that the accused's right to cross-examine an accuser will discourage victims of sexual violence from coming forward.
The new rules also change the definition of sexual harassment, defining it as either:
- A "school employee conditioning education benefits on participation in unwelcome sexual conduct,"
- "Unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity," or
- "Sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking."
While schools must still investigate any complaint, they must dismiss allegations that don't meet the new definition of sexual assault.
After the Department of Education (D.O.E.) published the final rules in May of 2020, 18 states and the District of Columbia challenged the regulations in federal court, which will go into effect on August 1, 2020. In the suit, the attorneys general argue that the new Title IX rules will undermine civil rights gains for victims of sexual assault and that some changes are "arbitrary and capricious."
Letter to Devos from Democratic Lawmakers
In June of 2020, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Representatives Jackie Speier, Ayanna Pressley, and Brenda Lawrence sent Secretary of Education Betsy Devos a letter requesting documents and communications related to the new Title IX rule's development, dating back to 2017. The lawmakers requested the information by July 3, 2020, noting that they had previously requested the same information in February of 2020. In February, the D.O.E. responded by noting that legal authorities prohibited the department from commenting on a rule after proposing it but before finalizing it.
The lawmakers call the D.O.E.'s decision to finalize the Title IX rules during a pandemic, "alarming and irresponsible." The group wrote that "As Members of the Committee and leaders of the Democratic Women's Caucus, we are troubled by the Department's decision to finalize this harmful rule while stonewalling appropriate oversight of the rulemaking process." While Democratic lawmakers may make more noise about the new Title IX regulations, it's unlikely that they will be able to stop promulgation of the new rules without full congressional action. However, the states' lawsuit in federal court may halt the rollout of the new regulations.
Hire an Experienced Title IX Lawyer
If your student faces Title IX allegations or an investigation in college or high school, you need an experienced lawyer who understands the high stakes and the complicated legal issues. Attorney Joseph Lento has successfully represented students at thousands of schools across the country facing Title IX and other student disciplinary issues. Give our office a call at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.