Attorney General Aaron Ford Joins Coalition of Attorneys General Opposing Federal Rule that Would Weaken Protections Under Title IX for Survivors of Sexual Harassment and Violence
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general in submitting a comment letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education, urging federal officials to withdraw a proposed rule that would undermine the anti-discrimination protections of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The proposed rule would also weaken protections against sexual harassment and violence for students. It would impose new requirements on schools and students that would be a significant departure from the fundamental purpose of Title IX and the Education Department’s longstanding Title IX guidance.
Title IX requires schools to provide all students with access to an educational environment free from discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. Many of the provisions of the Department of Education’s draft rule are inconsistent with this guarantee of Title IX, however, and constitute an inappropriate exercise of the Department’s rulemaking authority.
“All students deserve the ability to learn in a safe environment free from violence and discrimination,” said AG Ford. “Nevada’s schools have embraced Title IX’s procedures to provide students an educational environment free from discrimination based on sex. I strongly oppose any effort that waters down protection for Nevada’s students, and I join with other states in sending a strong message of support to our students and families.”
In the letter, the attorneys general note that the proposed rule would thwart the very purpose of Title IX in several ways, including:
- Improperly narrowing the definition of sexual harassment;
- Restricting schools’ ability to address harassment that occurs progressively;
- Exacerbating factors that prevent students from reporting sexual harassment and violence;
- Limiting schools’ obligation to respond to sexual harassment and violence that occurs outside “an educational program or activity”;
- Mandating unfair and inequitable grievance procedures that would burden schools and students alike; and
- Making it more difficult for the Education Department to take enforcement action against schools that violate Title IX.
The proper enforcement of Title IX is immensely important to states. As administrators of educational institutions, states will be bound by the Education Department’s final rules. States also have a deep concern for the well-being of their resident students, families and teachers, all of whom have the right to access education in a safe environment free from sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. In addition, the states have a strong interest in vigorously enforcing state anti-discrimination laws that promote students’ ability to learn in a safe environment free from violence and harassment.
Joining AG Ford in filing the letter are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.