- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Condemns Betsy Devos for Silencing Survivors of Sexual Violence
Boston — Calling a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Education “an attack on the civil rights of young people in schools across Massachusetts and the country,” Attorney General Maura Healey today condemned a proposed rule that would make it more difficult for survivors of sexual assault and harassment to report allegations and access the educational opportunities they deserve.
In her comment letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, AG Healey argued that the Department’s proposed rule will deny equitable access to educational opportunities for many survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
“The proposed rule is designed to silence survivors of sexual harassment and assault,” said AG Healey. “Secretary DeVos has again betrayed American students.”
AG Healey outlined several issues with the Department’s proposal, including:
- Imposing a new definition of “sexual harassment” that would significantly limit the types of incidents requiring a Title IX investigation.
- Allowing schools to refrain from responding to sexual harassment complaints unless incidents are reported directly to a small number of school officials.
- Limiting the scope of schools’ Title IX authority to address incidents at events occurring off of school property, even if they have an impact on students’ ability to access educational opportunity.
- Requiring live hearings and cross-examination in higher education proceedings, which will chill reporting, re-traumatize survivors, and unnecessarily prolong the timeline to resolution.
The Department of Education’s current guidance instructs colleges on how they must address sexual harassment and assault incidents under Title IX. These steps include investigating complaints of “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” requiring reporting by a range of responsible school officials, and implementing procedures for handling investigations and hearings. Title IX guarantees that students shall not be discriminated from any education program or activity on the basis of sex.
Sexual violence on college campuses is widespread. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, on average, 20.5 percent of college women had experienced sexual assault since entering college, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five women experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes. Moreover, the vast majority of these incidents go unreported.
This matter was handled by Angela Brooks and Abigail Taylor, of the AG’s Child and Youth Protection Unit with assistance from Gabrielle Viator of the Policy and Government Division, Mary Freely and Shafaq Islam of the Civil Rights Division, and Genevieve Nadeau, State Enforcement Counsel.