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ACLU files lawsuit against Education Dept, DeVos over new campus sexual assault rules

ACLU files lawsuit against Education Dept, DeVos over new campus sexual assault rules
© Greg Nash

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Education Department on Thursday, saying that the recent rule changes to Title IX by Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosDeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' Anti-bullying scholarship program offers 'Hope' for students — and school choice National reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge MORE "sharply limit educational institutions’ obligations to respond to reports of sexual harassment and assault." 

“Betsy DeVos has created a double standard that is devastating for survivors of sexual harassment and assault, who are overwhelmingly women and girlsWe are suing to make sure this double standard never takes effect," Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement.

The influential nonprofit filed the complaint on behalf of four activist groups that advocate for survivors of sexual assault, including Know Your IX and Girls for Gender Equity. The suit looks to block DeVos's rule changes that are slated to take effect on Aug. 14.

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DeVos last week issued final rules on how all schools will address allegations of sexual misconduct, securing new protections for students and faculty accused of misconduct.

The new rules modify Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance,” by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and requiring schools to challenge evidence and cross-examine students via a live hearing.

The new regulations will only find schools in violation of Title IX if they are determined to be “deliberately indifferent” to accusations of sexual assault that occurred in their programs and activities.

"Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault," DeVos said when the final draft of the provisions was released earlier this month.

"This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process. We can and must continue to fight sexual misconduct in our nation's schools, and this rule makes certain that fight continues."

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The ACLU's suit also claims that the new provisions redefine "sexual harassment to exclude many instances of misconduct that currently fall within the Agency’s definition, and that continue to fall under the Agency’s definition of harassment based on race, national origin, and disability."

The Hill has reached out to the Education Department for comment.