DeVos, ED strengthen Title IX, reinforce the seriousness of sexual harassment and assault
Fans and critics of President Trump’s administration could easily characterize his White House tenure as a period of policy deregulation. Yet some of his administration’s most significant and liberating moves have come by way of supplemental policy, a feature which the FE Coalition has witnessed particularly in the Department of Education.
Earlier this year the FE Coalition applauded President Trump’s update of federal guidance which reinforced the protection of prayer and religious expression in public schools. Aside from the fact that the U.S. Constitution protects this right for Americans, the FE Coalition also recognizes the evident fact that many God-honoring students rely on their faith to make it through the school day and could never imagine having to check their faith at the door.
This week the Department of Education (ED), under Secretary DeVos’ leadership, has wisely acted to include “sexual harassment,” including “sexual assault,” “dating violence,” “domestic violence,” and “stalking,” under Title IX protections so that survivors of sexual misconduct in our Nation’s school can continue to have a safe place to learn. The additional Title IX regulation holds schools accountable for any failures to respond equitably and promptly to incidents of sexual misconduct while also allowing survivors of sexual misconduct to contribute to decisions on how a school responds to incidences. As a result of DeVos’ action, schools are now required to offer supportive measures to survivors, which can include actions such as a class or dorm reassignment or issuing no-contact orders, and even holds colleges responsible for off-campus sexual harassment at school-sanctioned fraternity and sorority houses. At the K-12 level, the regulation requires “elementary and secondary schools to respond promptly when any school employee has notice of sexual harassment.”
Additionally, the strengthened Title IX regulation requires institutional leaders to uphold due process in campus proceedings for students accused of sexual misconduct. The decision to heighten awareness of the fairness of due process comes on the back of (1) the federal courts having to step in on numerous campus-level judgements and issue more than 100 decisions in favor of the accused student and (2) years of evaluating research, stakeholder input, and over 124,000 public comments. ED’s new regulation does not prohibit schools from administering just and strong rulings on accused students, but ensures that judgement comes only after providing a basic, fair, and transparent due process to all students, regardless of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, Title IX now requires schools to state a standard of evidence and provide a written decision and rationale.
Sexual misconduct is a serious matter and must be treated as such. A fair and equal society requires that we earnestly listen and provide protection to the victim and respectfully listen and grant due process to the accused – both matter in the sight of God. The FE Coalition believes that the strengthened Title IX regulations coming from Secretary DeVos and the President’s administration do just that. Now it is the job of education advocates and the Hispanic evangelical community to continue to hold our schools to the high standard of justice and equality that students and Americans deserve.
Forward and higher in Christ,
Rev. Girien R. Salazar
Executive Director, FE Coalition