E-Advocacy for January 2019
Jan 09 , 2019/Category

Help Sexual Assault Survivors

We begin 2019 e-advocacy by turning the clock back to our December E-advocacy issue: the erosion of legal protection for students against sexual harassment and violence. The proposed Department of Education rules championed by Betsy DeVos also turn the clock back—to a time when educational institutions were free to turn a blind eye to rape, assault, and sexual harassment. If you have not taken action on this important topic, it’s now or never—the comment period closes at the end of this month.Under the proposed Title IX Rules:

  • First, the definition of sexual harassment, which was any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, will be changed under the proposed Title IX rules to behavior that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the [school’s] education program or activity” (§ 106.30). Students will be forced to bear repeated and escalating incidents of harassment until the harsh requirements of the new definition are met.
  • In addition, under the proposed rules, educational programs and activities that receive federal funding will be required to ignore incidents of sexual harassment and violence that occur outside of a school activity, including most off-campus violence (e.g., at an off-campus apartment or fraternity event) and online harassment in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college settings.
  • Finally, the proposed rules deny victims of sexual harassment and assault due process by requiring live cross-examination by an advisor of choice. This will have a chilling effect on the reporting of these incidents. What unknown person will the victims of harassment or assault have to face? Under the new rules, schools can pressure survivors into peer-on-peer mediation in lieu of a formal investigation.

As Reform Jews, we cannot remain silent when government policies erode students’ protection from sexual harassment and violence and undermine students’ civil rights to access education free of fear.Click on this link to use the RAC template to submit a comment urging the Department of Education to withdraw their proposed Title IX rules and advance policies that protect students from sexual harassment.