February 15, 2019
Despite a stated interest in helping survivors who face sexual violence in schools, the United States Department of Education proposed a federal regulation, affecting Title IX, that would only increase the harm to survivors. Under Title IX, educational institutions receiving federal funds may not discriminate on the basis of sex. This means that schools may have a certain amount of responsibility to protect students from sexual violence and take appropriate steps when sexual violence occurs.
The Center for Survivor Agency and Justice (“CSAJ”), a national organization that enhances economic advocacy for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, published its comment on the proposed rule change: https://csaj.org/library/view/csaj-title-ix-federal-comments.
CSAJ argues that the rule change would “in effect: discourage the reporting of sexual assault; disable critical education staff from promptly, compassionately and effectively responding; […impose] different standards for reporting on and off campus harassment complaints –indeed requiring that schools ignore off-campus complaints; exacerbate the trauma and costs of sexual assault by limiting “supportive measures” to survivors; [and more].”
Every one of the stated effects have a cost to survivors and educational institutions, which the regulation fails to account for in its cost savings calculations. After sexual assault, there are short and long term costs to survivors, institutions, and whole state economies. For example, survivors may lose an estimated $5,150 of tuition per semester following the assault. The cost to an institution can be approximately $350,000 per sexual assault claim. In California, mental health care responsive to sexual assault was $620 million. The proposed rule would do nothing to decrease these costs. Instead, additional costs would arise “by virtue of silencing reports, restricting response options, and muddying the investigation process.” CSAJ’s comment further expands on these costs: https://csaj.org/library/view/csaj-title-ix-federal-comments.
Furthermore, under Title IX, the Department of Education is only authorized to issue rules that ensure the anti-discrimination provision of the law is upheld. CSAJ argues in it’s comment that the Department goes to unprecedented lengths in the proposed rule to tell educational institutions when they cannot investigate allegations of sexual assault. “[The Department] does not have authority to force schools to violate students’ and employees’ civil rights under Title IX by forcing schools to ignore sexual harassment.”
“The point of Title IX is to increase access to a safe and enriching education, and its benefits,” says CSAJ in its comment. “By denying a role in addressing sexual harassment and assault and by ignoring the real costs, the Department undermines this purpose and will perpetuate enduring negative effects of violence.” The Center for Survivor Agency and Justice is a national organization that addresses the link between violence, poverty, and social inequality. Violence leads to economic hardship, and women who are living in poverty are much more likely to experience violence. CSAJ’s mission is to develop and promote advocacy approaches that remove systemic barriers, enhance organizational responses, and improve professional practices to meet the self-defined needs of domestic and sexual violence survivors.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Erika Sussman, Founder and Executive Director of CSAJ at firstname.lastname@example.org.