Written By: Madison Duboise
Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos recently released final regulations for schools dealing with sexual misconduct. Yesterday Devos finalized the rule changes that fulfill one of the Trump administration’s major policy goals for Title IX, an almost 50-year-old federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, supporting due-process protections for accused students. Devos however extended the reach of the laws in other ways besides this, leading to more investigation when it comes to sexual harassment claims along with requiring administrators to share the evidence with accused students and parents. Devos claims Title IX rule changes ‘rebalances the scales of justice’.
Almost every state already have laws in place requiring school employees to report cases of sexual harassment or assault but Title IX is forces schools to respond internally. The rules require both the accused and accusers be notified along with parents in written form leaving the accused 10 days to respond to the accusation. The person investigating the case can also not be the person deciding whether the accused is guilty or not. The regulations also require schools to use a narrower definition of sexual harassment than is used in employment sex discrimination laws. Sexual harassment under the new Title IX regulations is unwelcome conduct that "a reasonable person" would consider "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access" to an education. The rules of Title IX not only apply to college campuses but K-12 schools as well leaving school officials hesitant about whether this policy is going to successfully operate. Some of the nation’s largest teacher unions even objected to the proposal.
According to Education Dive in a study done in the 2011-2015 school years, there were reportedly 17,000 official sexual harassment cases in schools. The unreported number of cases is projectively higher. That is where many find an issue with the new Title IX rules, these new policies make sexual harassment and assault case even more public then before. Sexual assault victims often do not report their cases specifically for the reason that it is a private issue in their eyes and something they do not want everyone knowing. Title IX makes speaking up about sexual assault even harder for those victims not yet ready to share their story with more than just a counselor or principal.
Title IX while it is bringing awareness to sexual harassment and assult in school campuses, it may not have its desired affect. In a society fighting rape and sexual assult culture, the rules give school administration a major role in sexual harassment cases at schools. However with the reportedly high cases of unreported sexual assault in schools, it seems this law statiscally is going to increasing that number due the more public exposure of these cases. While Title IX was just finalized yesterday, it may not be long before the complete success of these policies or the extreme ineffectiveness is apparent.