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Betsy DeVos threatens students’ rights

Betsy DeVos is aiming to pull the rug out from under campus assault victims across the country.

DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education, has announced an egregious plan to roll-back the Obama-era “Dear Colleague” guidance amendment to Title IX policy.

In April 2011, the change was made to Title IX policy that enforced that colleges must take an active and serious role in combating and preventing sexual violence on campus. This policy interpretation was pivotal in the relationship between the government and educational institutions.

The introduction of this policy provided strict guidelines and a loss of federal funding for institutions that didn’t follow them seriously, in which revolutionized support and follow-through for victims of sexual assault on campuses.

The policy change, which came to be known as, the Dear Colleague letter, allowed for a lower standard of evidence than what was traditionally used in such cases. For example, the guidance stated that, “if a school knows or reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”

This change in standard was absolutely crucial to creating and sustaining a safer, and more accountable environment for students to live and participate in.

Similarly, protocols were put into place to safeguard and protect victims during the process of investigation. Mandates such as confidential reporting, and issued notices to parents, students, and employees regarding how such procedures are handled, and where support can be found on campus.

While these policy amendments were largely supported, advocates of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) bashed the amendment.

The group claimed that the guidance imposes new substantive obligations on universities, and advocated for the protection of the accused, rather than the victim. FIRE has been known to represent students accused of sexual assault, ensuring their rights and due process, rather than those of victims.

According to an investigation by the ThinkProgress organization showed that “IRS records show the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation made four donations, totaling $25,000, to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).”

Surely, support for this foundation from the secretary of education can be taken as nothing less than an ominous foreshadowing for the future of campus assaults.

While FIRE praised her suggested rollback, Know Your IX, a national survivor-built organization which advocates for the end of gender-based violence on campuses, rightfully recoiled in horror.

In a statement, they claimed that, “if Ms. DeVos revokes the Department’s critical work, she would make it harder for students to learn their rights—and easier for schools to violate them.”

DeVos’s unwillingness to protect students is insidious, and should be grounds for her dismissal. She is aiming to revoke safeguards, protections, and rights of student survivors in order to further protect the accused.

In other words, DeVos will acknowledge that sexual assault is an issue, but not specifically an issue on college campuses inferring that sexual assault doesn’t necessarily count as violence and discrimination.

Furthermore, she’s uncertain if she would like to continue to uphold the federal Title IX policy that protects thousands of students from gender-based and sex-based discrimination and crimes on campuses nationwide.

DeVos will decimate student safety, and relinquish the accountability enforced between colleges and the government that upholds that safety. She will make campuses much less safe and welcoming to women, LGBTQ students, and many other marginalized and stigmatized student populations.

While it remains to be seen what exactly she will do concerning the policy change, DeVos is threatening thousands of lives and building an ever-more uncertain future for students and their campus safety.

It is time for all members of Trump’s cabinet to step up, recognize the epidemic of sexual violence, and commit to providing help and protection to all survivors.



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