With the August 14 deadline approaching for colleges and universities to implement Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s new campus sexual assault regulations, education groups, women’s rights groups, and 18 states are suing the Department of Education in hopes of stopping the regulations from taking effect.
Secretary DeVos’s Final Rule, issued in May 2020, makes it harder for sexual violence survivors to report their harassment and assault, slashes schools’ obligations to respond to reports of sexual harassment and assault, and denies survivors fair treatment when they try to use the system that is supposed to protect them. Additionally, requiring schools to implement new regulations during the COVID-19 crisis ignores the extraordinary challenges schools currently face to keep their campuses safe. The Department of Education has nevertheless set the effective date of the Final Rule for only 90 days after its issuance.
Shortly after the Final Rule was issued in May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education on behalf of Know Your IX, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Girls for Gender Equity, and Stop Sexual Assault in Schools — all organizations dedicated to helping students who experience sexual harassment and assault continue their education. The ACLU argues that the rule requires colleges to review reports of sexual harassment and assault with a higher standard of proof than other civil rights complaints, such as discrimination based on race, national origin, and disability.
New York Attorney General Letitia James also filed a lawsuit on June 5, 2020 against the Department of Education. Attorney General Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania joined Attorney General James shortly thereafter by co-leading a lawsuit against the Department with Attorney Generals from New Jersey, California, and 14 other states and the District of Columbia to block the new rule and the subsequent creation of inequitable disciplinary proceedings from kindergarten through college in each of their states. At the end of June, New York and the multistate coalition filed a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the Final Rule on August 14, which is still pending.
On June 20, 2020, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed another lawsuit against the Department of Education on behalf of four organizations that represent student survivors of sexual harassment and assault: Equal Rights Advocates, Victim Rights Law Center, Legal Voice, and Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. On July 3, 2020, NWLC amended the lawsuit to add seven new plaintiffs, all of whom are student survivors of sexual harassment or assault and who will be harmed by the new rule. NWLC also filed a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the Final Rule.
On July 31, 2020, Correia & Puth filed an amicus brief on behalf of Promundo; American Men’s Studies Association; CONNECT, Inc., Jana’s Campaign, Inc.; Men Stopping Violence; Men’s Story Project; Men and Masculinities Knowledge Community of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education; North American MenEngage Network; Ten Men – Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Vera House, Inc. The amici are leading voices in promoting healthy masculinity, working toward an end to gender-based violence, advancing gender equality, and preventing violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women, girls, and individuals of all gender identities. The brief maintains that the Final Rule makes schools less safe for all students, including male survivors of sexual violence, and fails to protect students’ access to education.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or violence at school, or have questions about the way your school is responding to the new regulations, contact us today. Our team helps students determine their rights under the applicable laws, obtain relief, and hold schools accountable.