Betsy DeVos has fallen short yet again on a very simple and fundamental responsibility she has as Secretary of Education: the duty to protect all students.
DeVos is proposing a rule that would reverse current safeguards for students by making sweeping changes to Title IX’s regulations.
Title IX bars sex discrimination at elementary and secondary schools and colleges that receive federal funding. It deals with how schools, colleges, and universities handle and investigate accusations of sexual assault and harassment, and the protections afforded to students who make these allegations.
Attention to and awareness of the problem of sexual assault and harassment has grown in the past year with the resurgence of the #MeToo Movement. These issues are very real, and they have been a part of our society forever.
We were making some progress during the Obama administration, with guidance offered to schools and colleges. But instead of taking the opportunity in this time of national dialogue about sexual harassment and sexual assault to strengthen protections for survivors, the Trump administration is eroding the civil rights that federal policy has created.
The proposed rule change would encourage schools to ignore students who ask for help, taking us back to a time when sexual harassment and violence were swept under the rug.
The bottom line is that Betsy DeVos is making schools and campuses more dangerous and less safe, and taking us backwards rather than moving us forward.
More than 1 in 5 women, nearly 1 in 18 men, and more than 1 in 4 transgender and gender-nonconforming students is sexually assaulted in college. More than 1 in 5 girls ages 14-18 are kissed or touched without their consent. And yet, when survivors do report, they are often ignored, blamed, or even punished. It is no wonder that many of them end up dropping out of school because they no longer feel safe. In fact, 34 percent of college survivors drop out.
As an educator who believes that our number one concern must always be what is best for students, I am angry about what this rule change will do. It will make academic communities more dangerous and decrease the likelihood that survivors will report assaults and harassment.
When so much is required of us as educators, parents, and community allies to protect these vulnerable young people, it is unfathomable that DeVos and the Trump administration are not doing all they can to safeguard students.