Woman's National Democratic Club

Title IX, 50 Years After Passage

By Kate Tully, Student Organizer for Know Your IX

From Stanford to UMass Amherst, swaths of students across the country are demanding action on campus sexual violence. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we turn toward the trail-blazing activists who have worked to actualize a more equitable educational landscape. However, it is just as imperative to interrogate the gap between the current status quo of Title IX, and a Title IX that has realized its full potential to provide equitable access to an education free from violence. Our work is far from over.

In 2020, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s Secretary of Education, promulgated regulations that drastically curbed the scope of Title IX protections on college campuses—limiting the definition of sexual harassment, tilting the scales in favor of respondents in sexual misconduct cases, and requiring schools to respond only to sexual violence that happens within a school program or activity. Under DeVos’s Title IX provisions, schools are allowed—and even, often forced—to dismiss victims of sexual harassment whose abuse falls beyond that narrow scope. In fact, by DOE’s own calculations their regulation will cause reporting to drop 39% at colleges and universities, and 50% in K–12 schools. This is especially alarming because prior to DeVos’ regulation, colleges only conducted an average of 1.18 investigations into campus sexual misconduct per year.

This 2020 regulation was informed by a prolific and vocal men’s rights network that worked tirelessly to establish a rule that has had unprecedented consequences on the levels of sexual violence students on campuses have experienced nationwide. The Title IX envisioned by the likes of Patsy Mink, Catharine MacKinnon, and other historic Title IX trail-blazers has been gravely distorted by an expansive right-wing network intent on diminishing survivors’ rights.

With the current regulatory timeline, students are still unlikely to see the Biden Administration’s rule finalized before the 2022–23 school year. When their draft rule becomes public, students are hoping that it requires schools to respond to complaints of sexual harassment that could infringe on a student’s ability to participate in education—no matter where the harassment occurs. This would include having a hard time focusing in class because of fear seeing your abuser or hearing harassing comments from teachers. We are hoping the rule ensures that all students who report to school employees are made aware of available resources, reporting options, and school policies that prohibit violence. We are hoping it requires schools to provide proactive support measures that help us participate in school, such as free counseling, tutoring, extension on assignments or accommodations on exams, or support moving to different housing. And lastly, we are hoping that the rule protects queer and transgender students from discrimination in education and ensures their equitable access to the full benefits of their educational programs and activities.

In its 50th year, we hope that we can realize Title IX’s full potential to justly respond to the educational, emotional, financial, and stigmatic harms of violence that student survivors are experiencing. As students continue to experience harm with the DeVos rule in place, student survivors need robust, interim solutions and guidance to ensure that they are able to access the supportive measures and remedies they need to stay in school. Moreover, schools must be held accountable to their responsibility to address reports of sexual violence.

Kate Tully is a student engagement organizer for Know Your IX and a freshman at Stanford University, majoring in Political Science on a pre-law track. Originally from Sacramento, Tully was the co-director of Sacramento Students Against Sexual assault to secure a district Title IX coordinator and more robust protections for the 50,000 inner-city students in the Sacramento City Unified School District. At Stanford, she is focusing on political science research, is an organizer with Sexual Violence Free Stanford, and is working to increase the rights of subcontracted workers in Palo Alto, California.

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