At a time when students face terrifyingly high rates of sexual assault on college campus (23% of female, 5% of male, and 24% of trans and gender non-conforming students), the federal government is cutting back protections in Title IX.
Title IX is meant to keep students safe from sexual violence and protect their rights if they are assaulted, but the proposed changes in Title IX will:
- redefine sexual harassment as only those instances of unwelcome conduct that are “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity”;
- allow schools to ignore sexual violence that occurs off-campus, including off-campus housing, Greek Life housing, and students studying abroad;
- ban schools from removing an accused perpetrator from a class or dorm until after the victim has won a disciplinary hearing (limiting schools’ options for how to keep students safe before and during an investigation);
- allow schools to delay investigating an allegation until after a criminal case has been completed, which often takes years;
- require live cross examination of victims during investigations;
- and undermine students’ rights to safe and equal education in many other ways.
Maybe the cruelest thing about these proposed changes is that they ban schools from doing more. Schools will not have flexibility to provide better or more supports for survivors. They will be forced to meet these terrible standards.
In contrast, Massachusetts state legislators are working to ensure more protections and options for student survivors. Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier in particular has proposed legislation to have colleges work more closely with local rape crisis centers, protect students’ right to confidentiality, and support training and prevention education.
The federal government should be following our state example. In Berkshire County, students at our four local colleges will experience an estimated 784 sexual assaults next year, according to experience and statistics.
The federal Department of Education is abandoning its duty to protect students like ours from sexual violence and harassment. There is a mandated 60 day comment and response period before these Title IX changes become law. We have until January 28th to tell the Department of Education and our federal government that our kids deserve better.
Elizabeth Freeman Center will be speaking out on behalf of all students in Berkshire County, and we invite you to join us. For more information, contact Jenn, EFC youth educator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 413-499-2425.
More information on the proposed Title IX changes can be found at Know Your IX (KnowYourIX.org), Victim’s Rights Law Center (victimrights.org), and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC.org).
Janis Broderick, Executive Director, and Jennifer Wahr, Youth Violence Prevention Educator
Elizabeth Freeman Center
Free, confidential, 24/7 hotline: 866-401-2425