Letter to Betsy DeVos, Department of Education Secretary, and Kenneth L. Marcus, Department of Education Assistant Secretary - Reps Speier, Kuster, Pressley and Slotkin Lead Letter Urging the Department of Education to Rescind its Indefensible Title IX Rule
Dear Secretary DeVos and Assistant Secretary Marcus:
We are alarmed and disturbed by your decision to issue a new Title IX rule--in the middle of a
global pandemic and national emergency--that will gut protections for student survivors of
sexual assault, place a tremendous strain on already-overburdened schools, and effectively turn
Title IX on its head. We urgently call on you to rescind this dangerous new rule before it takes
effect on August 14, 2020.
As an initial matter, it is indefensible to choose this unprecedented moment of crisis to enact new
regulations that jeopardize the civil rights of students. School closures have affected over 70
million students nationwide, and school districts and institutions of higher education alike are
preparing for the possibility of remaining closed until 2021. As schools continue struggling to
help students and families overcome the many extraordinary challenges arising from COVID-19,
there is simply no justification for the Department to force schools to divert their already-strained
resources to implement needlessly complex and burdensome policies. Moreover, it will be
virtually impossible for schools to come into compliance with more than 2,000 pages of
responses to comments on the proposed rules and regulation--which took the Department nearly
three years to develop--in the required three-month window, and when schools are closed.
Your dangerous and ill-timed decision to issue the final Title IX rule during the COVID-19
pandemic not only flouts the White House's own directive to federal agencies to prioritize all
resources against COVID-19 but also ignores countless stakeholders' requests for the
Department to suspend Title IX rulemaking during the COVID-19 crisis, including requests from
approximately 200 survivor advocate and civil rights organizations, 33 higher education
associations, 53 members of Congress, and 18 state attorneys general.
We are also deeply disturbed by the substance of the final Title IX rule, which relies on and
reinforces the false and toxic stereotype that survivors, particularly women and girls, tend to lie
about sexual assault. It is simply unjustifiable for the Department to require schools to dismiss
many complaints of sexual harassment and mandate uniquely inequitable procedures for sexual
misconduct that are not required for other types of staff or student misconduct.
It flies in the face of common decency to require survivors to endure live hearings with live
cross-examination by the perpetrator's advisor of choice, who could be anyone from an angry
parent or fraternity brother to a criminal defense lawyer. And it gives colleges a free pass if
sexual misconduct occurs outside of a school program or activity, including most off-campus
sexual violence and online harassment. There is also the injustice of allowing schools to ignore
sexual violence in higher education that is not reported to a small set of high-ranking school
employees. Under your rule, many of the victims of Larry Nassar would not have fallen under
the narrow guidelines that require an institution of higher education, such as Michigan State
University, to investigate a report of sexual assault. Specifically, many of the victims reported
his abuse to athletic trainers and coaches, or the wrong people.
Not only will this new rule make it harder for victims to come forward and receive help to stay in
school, but it will also unduly hinder many schools from responding effectively to many
incidents of sexual violence. As such, it is unsurprising that the American public
overwhelmingly opposes this rule. When the Department first announced its proposed rule in
November 2018, students, school officials, civil rights advocates, and government officials
submitted nearly 125,000 comments in response, the vast majority of which strongly opposed the
proposal. Still, the Department chose to flout the will of the people and move forward with its
In light of all these reasons, we call on you to rescind the Title IX rule before it takes effect. It is
not too late to reverse course and protect rather than undermine students' civil rights.