As previously reported, the Department of Education's highly anticipated draft of proposed Title IX guidelines were leaked by the New York Times. If these plans are reminiscent of the finalized versions, we'll see big changes in the way Title IX is applied and approached in higher education in upcoming years.
Almost everything about the proposal is controversial, from the new reporting guidelines to new parameters in school jurisdiction. But one seemingly small detail and its implications have raised quite a few eyebrows. If enacted, the new regulations would automatically exempt religious colleges and universities from having to comply with Title IX if their objections are faith-based.
As of now, the federal government already allows religious institutions to opt out of adhering to Title IX. Previous eras dating back to the Reagan administration required these schools to submit a letter to the DOE providing good reasoning, based on their religious convictions, as to why an exemption from a Title IX rule was appropriate. Once exemption was granted, the school would be added to a widely accessible list of religious institutions that also chose to reject this law.
Under the new policy, schools aren't obliged to make any efforts to justify their desire for exemption. Therefore eliminating the means of identifying which institutions are choosing to deviate from the law, and why they are doing so.
Some spectators are concerned that this degree of leniency for religious institutions opens the door for unchecked discrimination. They argue that schools could use this exemption to rationalize their attempts to further marginalize LGBTQ students or punish women for unplanned pregnancies or abortions. A projection that isn't too far fetched given the daunting history of some religious institutions.
Just three years ago an honors student at Claflin University was evicted from her dorm due to a school policy that prohibits pregnant students from staying in campus housing. Kamaria Downs was asked to move after receiving word from an anonymous source that she was pregnant. She had pre-paid for her dorm room, and moving back in at home wasn't an option since she lived two and a half hours away from the school. After graduation, she decided to fight back by persuading the college to change its long-standing policy on pregnancy. Luckily for her, the school agreed to modify its policy without the looming threat of legal action.
But in a time when religious institutions will now be able to possibly waiver Title IX regulations with little to no problem, the outcome for people in Kamaria's position in the future may not be as favorable.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.