We Sued Betsy DeVos Over Her New Title IX Policy That Discriminates Against Sexual Violence Survivors

We just sued the Department of Education. Again. And we did it with some of our favorite organizations.

Let’s back up a little bit. You may remember that this fall Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded important policies about how Title IX protects student survivors of sexual violence. Her department replaced that guidance to schools with a new confusing, discriminatory policy that essentially encourages schools to set up unfair systems that disadvantage survivors. Title IX, the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, requires that schools treat students who report sexual violence and alleged perpetrators equally: schools can’t decide they value or believe one side more than the other. But DeVos’ new policy lets schools give accused students more rights than survivors. It even allows alleged rapists to directly interrogate their victims.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Department’s process was also a hot mess. In a speech setting the stage for the new policy, DeVos criticized the Obama administration for releasing policies through “guidance letters,” a common practice used during both Democratic and Republican administrations. And then, in a startling show of hypocrisy, DeVos released her new policy inexactly the same kind of letter. The Department claimed, at the time, that they would give the public a chance to comment on new regulations – but so far, nothing.

At the time, DeVos claimed she was issuing a new policy to help all students, but we know that isn’t true. In the months leading up to the decision, DeVos consulted with “men’s rights activists” who publish the names and photos of rape victims to encourage harassment. Her Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson, told the New York Times that 90% of student rape reports are the lies of women who regret drunken sex. Jackson’s wildly inaccurate claim showed that the Department was making decisions not based on facts but on terrible gender stereotypes.

Today, we filed a lawsuit challenging DeVos’ discriminatory new Title IX policy in the Northern District of California on behalf of three amazing groups that represent student survivors hurt by the Department’s actions: Equal Rights Advocates, SurvJustice, and the Victim Rights Law Center. We’ve got a pretty all-star legal team, too, if I do say so myself. The National Women’s Law Center serves as co-counsel alongside Democracy Forward, the National Center for Youth Law, and Equal Rights Advocates.

In the lawsuit, we show how the Department based its decisions on sexist stereotypes and legal mistakes and put forth an illegal policy without following proper procedures. Our message is clear: when the government breaks the law and betrays student survivors, the civil rights community won’t let them get away with it.
You can read the complaint here.