Attorney General Becerra Leads Effort to Immediately Block Trump Administration’s Harmful Rule That Weakens Protections for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Schools
New regulations force schools to implement Secretary DeVos’ burdensome new requirements amid COVID-19 or risk losing federal funding
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal today led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in seeking a preliminary injunction to block the implementation of the U.S. Department of Education’s final rule weakening protections for students — from kindergarten through college — under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities receiving federal funding. In the motion for a preliminary injunction, the coalition seeks to immediately block the rule, or secure a stay of the effective date, because the rule undermines Title IX’s guarantee that students be able to learn in an environment free from discrimination based on sex, including sexual violence and harassment. With school resources already stretched thin because of COVID-19, the rule and its unreasonable timeframe for compliance threaten to inflict direct, immediate, and irreparable harm to states and schools across the country by callously requiring schools to divert attention away from critical work to educate our students during the challenges of a pandemic.
“Sexual violence plagues our schools and survivors deserve to be heard,” said Attorney General Becerra. “But this final rule puts the health and safety of students in the rear-view mirror. Rather than making our schools safer, Secretary DeVos and President Trump are making it harder for students to come forward in the face of sexual harassment. That’s why we’re seeking a court order to put an immediate halt to this latest shortsighted and callous policy. All students deserve to have meaningful access to education free from discrimination.”
Title IX is a landmark law that is immensely important to states, students, families, teachers, and their communities. For more than 45 years, it has required schools that receive federal funding to provide students with an educational environment free from discrimination based on sex, including sexual violence and harassment. Despite the frequency of campus sexual harassment and violence and its devastating effects on students, those subjected to sexual harassment and violence often refrain from reporting it. One national study found that only 12 percent of survivors in college and two percent of female survivors ages 14–18 reported sexual assault to their schools or the police. An even smaller fraction of survivors officially report sexual harassment or assault to a Title IX officer. Students often choose not to report for many reasons, but federal regulations should never be a barrier to survivors seeking relief — and that is what the new Title IX regulations threaten to become. Moreover, the new regulations will force schools to comply with Secretary DeVos’ unreasonable timeline and onerous requirements or face the prospect of losing federal funding at a time when the country’s education system can least afford it.
In the motion for preliminary injunction, the coalition asserts that the new Title IX rule will cause immediate and irreparable harm to the states’ schools and students in several ways, including by:
- Improperly narrowing what constitutes sexual harassment and who may submit complaints;
- Unlawfully mandating schools to dismiss complaints that fall outside the new rule’s interpretation of Title IX;
- Failing to address the unique circumstances of K-12 schools, unreasonably creating a one-size-fits-all approach; and
- Setting an arbitrary effective date that directly impedes efforts by schools to address an ongoing health crisis.
Today’s action is part of Attorney General Becerra’s ongoing commitment to defending the civil rights of students in California and across the country. Earlier this month, Attorney General Becerra filed suit to challenge Secretary DeVos’ unlawful new rule on Title IX. Previously, he led a coalition of 19 attorneys general in opposing the initial proposed changes to Title IX, building on earlier letters expressing concern with the U.S. Department of Education’s posture on the issue and offering guidance to California schools on complying with the law. In April, the Attorney General opposed a federal proposal that would create loopholes that favor high sodium foods like pizza, french fries, and burgers in school meals. Last year, Attorney General Becerra secured a historic desegregation agreement with the Sausalito Marin City School District. He also reached an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address discriminatory treatment of minority students and students with disabilities.
In filing the motion, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the filing is available here.