05.06.20

Senator Murray Slams Secretary DeVos’ Title IX Rule, Calls on the Department to Focus on COVID-19 Response

Final rule released despite call from Senator Murray for Secretary DeVos to focus on helping schools and institutions of higher education deal with the coronavirus crisis

 

Senator Murray: “Right now, the Department of Education needs to be using every resource available to implement the more than $30 billion of education funding Congress allocated with the urgency, consistency and equity it requires—not issuing regulations that are not only completely unrelated to combating coronavirus, but will actually harm students.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), released the following statement in response to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ final regulation on Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the landmark civil rights law which governs how schools handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault. The rule issued today would weaken protections for survivors of sexual harassment and assault by making it harder for students to report incidents of sexual harassment or assault, narrowing the definition of sexual assault and harassment, and making it significantly easier for schools to escape liability for not responding to incidents.

 

“Right now, the Department of Education needs to be using every resource available to implement the more than $30 billion of education funding Congress allocated with the urgency, consistency and equity it requires—not issuing regulations that are not only completely unrelated to combating coronavirus, but will actually harm students. 

 

“Let me be clear: this rule is not about ‘restoring balance,’ this is about silencing survivors. This rule will make it that much harder for a student to report an incident of sexual assault or harassment—and that much easier for a school to sweep it under the rug. There is an epidemic of sexual assault in schools—that’s not up for debate. But instead of responsibly working with advocates, survivors, students, K-12 schools, and colleges to address the issue, Secretary DeVos and this Administration are going out of their way to make schools less safe.

 

“I have fought against this rule every step of the way, alongside brave students and survivors who came forward to share their stories. While I’m deeply disappointed, I’m not surprised Secretary DeVos ignored the hundreds of thousands of stories of sexual assault at schools and today moved forward with a rule that strips away protections for survivors. This is a devastating blow, but as we continue to help students, families, K-12 schools and colleges recover from the impact of coronavirus, I won’t stop trying to do everything I can to ensure that every single student can learn in a safe environment.”

 

Secretary DeVos released the final rule despite Senator Murray calling for the Department to focus on helping schools and institutions of higher education grapple with the ongoing public health crisis, instead of burdening them with implementing a new rule.  

 

Senator Patty Murray has long been a strong, vocal opponent of Secretary DeVos’ efforts to weaken protections for sexual harassment and assault survivors by undermining Title IX. Starting in 2017, when Secretary DeVos first indicated that she intended to change the Title IX guidance, Senator Murray led Democrats in pressing for the Department of Education to fulfill its obligation to keep students safe and urged Secretary DeVos to listen to survivors.

 

When Secretary DeVos officially proposed her rule in November 2018, Senator Murray immediately called for her to rescind the proposal. In January 2019, Senator Murray urged the Department to extend the comment period so students could make their voices heard. In January 2019, Senator Murray led 35 Democratic senators in sending an official letter opposing the rule. Since then, Senator Murray has spoken out repeatedly against Secretary DeVos’ efforts to undermine Title IX protection.

 

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