Education Department Heaps More Harm on Sexual Assault Survivors, Transgender Students
Washington, DC—Today, the Department of Education withdrew critical guidance on schools’ and universities’ obligations under federal law to survivors of sexual assault.
Based on established law and longstanding Department policies, the 2011 and 2014 guidance documents detailed school responsibilities under the federal Title IX law, which protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender. Since their original release, the guidance documents have provided much-needed practical advice to schools dealing with sexual violence and ensured a fairer process for survivors of such violence.
The 2014 document explicitly stated that, in line with numerous federal appeals court rulings, Title IX applies to discrimination against transgender students. Title IX continues to protect transgender students and student survivors of sexual assault. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of such guidance leaves educational institutions without clear direction on how to ensure fairness for survivors and trans students.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE, made the following statement:
This is another heartless move from the Trump/Pence Discrimination Administration. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are inviting schools to return to the days when survivors were shamed, blamed and abandoned. The administration is once again inviting schools to ignore the law, just as it did when it encouraged schools to single out students for being transgender. If the President’s persecution of immigrants, Muslims, and transgender troops hasn’t made it clear, here is another sign that this President doesn’t care about people.
By withdrawing this guidance and issuing a flimsy interim Q&A document, the Department has also displayed a breathtaking level of hypocrisy. While Secretary DeVos has paid lip service to taking public input about departmental guidance, today’s action comes just two days after the closure of a public comment period to revisit regulations and guidance documents. The Department received thousands of comments, including nearly 1,500 that were hand-delivered by NCTE. The Department wants us to believe that our voices have been heard, but the short timeline means that the interim guidance is based neither on departmental precedent nor on public input.
The stakes here are dire for transgender students, as 47 percent of transgender adults are survivors of sexual assault. We urge schools to listen to survivors and follow the well-settled principles of Title IX law, no matter what the Trump administration says. The interim guidance will only sow confusion and make campuses less safe for survivors. If this administration adopts a harmful policy inconsistent with the law, we will look to Congress and the courts to hold them accountable.