[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Bob Casey (D-PA) condemned a formal announcement today by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos confirming the Department of Education (DoE) will rescind current campus sexual assault guidance in anticipation of issuing a new rule. DeVos also announced interim guidance for schools and universities while DoE undergoes the rulemaking process.
The interim guidance encourages a higher burden of proof on victims; makes it more difficult for cases to be heard justly and in a timely manner; removes clarity of process for schools; and stacks the deck against survivors by removing the requirement of equal rights to appeal.
“This administration’s stunning insensitivity and indifference to the pervasive problem of campus sexual assault reached a new low today,” said Blumenthal. “Today’s announcement systematically undermines critical protections for students under Title IX, by altering the guidance set forth in the 2011 Dear Colleague letter by the Department of Education. Secretary DeVos’s interim guidance effectively puts victims last, failing to weigh the stories, advice, and experiences of assault survivors and advocates. This decision is a slap in the face to survivors, students, educators, and parents.”
“Today’s announcement makes it crystal clear that Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration do not take the rights of sexual assault survivors seriously. This decision to strip the current Title IX guidance from our college campuses is an affront to a fair process for our students. This move is a huge step in the wrong direction and will discourage students from reporting sexual assault,” said Gillibrand. “With 1 in 5 undergraduate women experiencing sexual assault during college, schools should be doing everything they can to encourage survivors to come forward to get the support they need. Secretary DeVos’ job is to protect our students, and with this move she is doing the exact opposite.”
“Secretary DeVos has taken the progress we’ve made protecting survivors and making our campuses safer, and thrown that progress into chaos,” said McCaskill. “As students head back to school this fall, their Department of Education has just told them if they’re assaulted, it’ll now be harder to fight for justice and ensure their safety on campus. I want Missouri’s students, parents, and administrators to know that I’ll keep fighting with everything I’ve got to make sure we never turn our back on survivors or on their school’s obligation to keep them safe.”
“Secretary DeVos and this Administration have betrayed the victims of campus sexual assault with this decision,” said Casey. “This decision is not just a betrayal of the victims of campus sexual assault – it also discourages future victims from coming forward and seeking assistance. The Department of Education’s reckless action will make it harder for schools to hold violent perpetrators accountable and is an inappropriate reversal of the progress we have made in the last several years.”
Blumenthal, Gillibrand, McCaskill and Casey joined 25 of their colleagues earlier this month to urge DeVos to uphold the current protections for sexual assault survivors.