On Friday, September 22, 2017, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she was rescinding Obama-era changes to how schools should handle sexual assaults under Title IX. Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. Title IX applies to colleges and universities as well as public elementary and secondary schools, school districts, and publicly funded charter schools.
Title IX's prohibition on sex discrimination applies to all aspects of educational programs. Sex discrimination is prohibited in admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, and recreation and physical education. In several cases, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment between teachers and children and also between schoolchildren violated the protections of Title IX (Kopels & Dupper, 1999).
Media reports noted that DeVos's announcement was met with both condemnation and enthusiasm by victims' rights' and individual rights' advocates (Cullen, 2017; Helfling & Emma, 2017; Saul & Taylor, 2017). The media attention centered on the new requirements that universities must focus on ensuring due process and fairness to both sides of a sexual harassment case, as well as the use of a higher burden of proof and the impact on universities' abilities to protect the victim and the offender. Secretary DeVos stated that the U.S. Department of Education was no longer going to rule by interpretive letters and instead would use the regulatory process to seek public comment on these issues (U.S. Department of Education, 2017).
I find it interesting that the varied responses did not include comments by elementary and secondary education administration on the DeVos announcement. As stated above, Title IX applies to public K-12 education. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating 137 public school districts in the United States for sexual violence violations of Title IX (Keierlieber, 2017). The number of cases that do not rise to the level of an OCR investigation is unknown. However, any changes in Title IX and higher education will also affect primary and secondary education. Perhaps the silence from the public school system stems from school districts' lack of understanding of Title IX, their lack of...