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AAUW opposes effort to weaken Title IX protections

Guest editorial

In May 2020, the Department of Education issued a long-anticipated but extremely harmful rule designed to substantially weaken Title IX, rolling back important protections for student survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Title IX is a landmark civil rights law that was enacted in 1972. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal funds. Today marks the 48th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX.

Since the passage of Title IX, opponents have sought to weaken it. Just recently, the U.S. Department of Education finalized regulations that will make it harder for students who have experienced sexual harassment or violence to access the very protections Title IX was created to provide. This new rule will go into effect Aug. 14. The new rule includes substantive changes by inappropriately redefining sexual harassment in a such a way that is narrower and more stringent.

Because of this new rule, school may subject victims of sexual harassment or violence to drawn-out and onerous investigations. Victims may be coerced into participating in mediation with their assailant and cross-examined in live proceedings. Additionally, the new rule would allow schools to ignore the complaints of a victim if the harassment occurred outside of a campus-controlled facility or if it were not reported to the right person.

As a result of the new rule, students who are already at risk will face additional barriers in bringing their claims forward.

The new rule will turn back the clock on Title IX by reversing policies that were put into place to make it easier for survivors of sexual assault to report sexual misconduct. The new rule is antithetical to the fundamental promise of Title IX: that all students deserve access to an education free from sex discrimination. The implementation of this new rule during a global crisis is inappropriate and unrealistic.

The Iron Mountain/Kingsford branch of American Association of University Women urges the Department of Education to rescind this harmful rule and instead focus on prioritizing the safety of all students in the trying time.

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