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Quick Hit: Dana on Betsy DeVos’ Attack On Student Survivors

Last week, Betsy DeVos announced that she’s rescinding critical Title IX guidance that outlines student survivors’ rights under federal civil rights law. Our very own Dana, along with Feministing alum Alexandra Brodsky, published an important op-ed in the Washington Post raising the question, among others: has DeVos even read the guidance she’s revoking?

Here’s an excerpt:

The 2011 letter set out specifically that “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.” It empowered campus sexual assault survivors like us to walk into meetings with school officials knowing that colleges couldn’t push us to withdraw from school until our perpetrators graduated. (One of us was told to drop out of school until her rapist finished his degree.) Our schools had to provide us the accommodations we needed to stay in school, such as free counseling, and help students switch out of class sections shared with the individuals charged with assaulting them. The letter outlined our right to learn alongside our peers, making clear to our schools that they could no longer count on our ignorance keeping us in the shadows.

DeVos misleadingly claims the guidance requires schools to deny accused students a fair investigation process. To be clear, I agree (just like Title IX activists everywhere) that school discipline must be impartial, procedurally robust, and fair to all parties. But I don’t believe for a second that the “Grab ‘Em By the Pussy” Administration is going to build a system that’s fair to both accused students and gender violence survivors – especially when DeVos’ speech included some highly misleading statements about the Dear Colleague Letter. Dana and Alexandra explain:

DeVos also misrepresented the guidance itself, arguing that the Dear Colleague letter gutted due process protections for the accused. That’s false. The letter reaffirms schools’ obligation to provide for the rights of all parties involved in campus sexual assault cases and already requires many of the protections critics demand. DeVos said that under the current system, accused students are denied proper notice of the accusation and access to the evidence against them. But those practices are expressly forbidden by the Dear Colleague letter, which plainly states: “the parties must have an equal opportunity to present relevant witnesses and other evidence. The complainant and the alleged perpetrator must be afforded similar and timely access to any information that will be used at the hearing.” . . .  If schools are failing to live up to their legal obligations to accused students, the solution is for the Education Department to enforce those obligations, not undermine them.

If DeVos wants to attack Title IX guidance protecting student survivors – who are organized as hell and already fighting back – she should do her homework first. Head over to The Washington Post to read Dana and Alexandra’s piece in full.

Photo credit: Know Your IX

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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