(Washington, D.C.) Although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has so far refused to commit to preserving Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors, voters overwhelmingly support them—including those who backed Donald Trump last November, according to a new poll released today by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).

The findings from the poll conducted in May 2017 by Public Policy Polling reveal:

  • 78% of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, including 76% of Trump voters, support Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in federally funded schools and colleges.
  • 87% of voters, including 85% of Trump voters, back the U.S. Department of Education guidance that outlines schools’ responsibilities to promptly investigate reports of sexual assault and provide accommodations and services to students who have been sexually assaulted.
  • 94% of voters believe schools at all education levels have a responsibility to address sexual assault.
  • 94% of voters support using the preponderance of evidence standard in student disciplinary proceedings—which means they agree that schools should discipline students who more likely than not raped or sexually assaulted another student.
  • Voters strongly believe in the notion of survivors’ choice about reporting sexual assault; 74% support letting survivors decide whether and how to report sexual assault and reject the notion of mandatory reporting to law enforcement agencies.
  • More than one in four voters (26%) are survivors of sexual assault and more than half (51%) know a survivor.

“By overwhelming majorities, voters understand that sexual assault is a serious issue, want schools to support survivors, and believe survivors should choose whether and how to report sexual assault,” said Neena Chaudhry, NWLC Director of Education and Senior Counsel. “This poll sends a clear message to Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration: undermining Title IX and the 2011 Department of Education guidance to schools on how to support sexual assault survivors will come at your own peril.”

 

Background

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to schools clarifying their responsibility to support students who have been sexually assaulted and choose to report the crime to their school. The guidance reminds schools that they are required to have a number of preventive measures against harassment in place; to promptly and thoroughly investigate reports of sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence,  and to provide accommodations (such as tutoring, counseling, or changes to academic or living situations) to survivors. It also said schools should discipline a student if the school finds after an investigation that the student more likely than not raped or sexually assaulted a classmate.

During her confirmation hearing, DeVos refused to commit to preserving this 2011 guidance letter, stating that it would be “premature” to do so, and that she “can’t think of any” education issue that requires federal intervention. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, Secretary DeVos met with at least one vocal opponent of the 2011 guidance while ignoring meeting requests from student assault survivors, allied organizations, and Title IX experts. DeVos also has previously made financial contributions to a group that is currently suing the department for issuing the guidance.

PPP surveyed 888 registered voters nationwide from May 5-7, 2017.  The margin of error for the survey is  +/-3.3 %. 80% of interviews for the poll were conducted over the phone with 20% interviewed over the Internet to reach respondents who don’t have landline telephones.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 888 registered voters nationwide from May 5 – 7, 2017. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.3%. 80% of the interviews for the poll were conducted over the phone with 20% interviewed over the Internet to reach respondents who do not have landline telephones.

 

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 For immediate release: May 17, 2017

NWLC experts on education policy, Title IX, and the survey results are available for interviews. Please contact Olympia Feil at ofeil@nwlc.org & 202-588-5180 to schedule an interview.

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women’s equality and opportunity.  The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.  For more information on the Center, visit:  www.nwlc.org.

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