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ACLU, Survivor Advocate Groups Sue Dept. of Education

May 15, 2020
 
 

The American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Education on May 14 on behalf of four organizations that advocate for the rights of survivors of sexual assault in the first of many anticipated legal challenges to the final Title IX rule issued by Secretary Betsy DeVos last week.

The organizations Know Your IX, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Girls for Gender Equity, and Stop Sexual Assault in Schools argue that the rule requires colleges to review reports of sexual assault and harassment with a higher standard of proof than other civil rights complaints, such as discrimination based on race, national origin and disability, according to a press release from the ACLU.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, also claims that the new rule does not serve the objectives of Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded institutions. With the regulation, DeVos has created a “double standard” for survivors, who are mostly women and girls, Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement.

“We are suing to make sure this double standard never takes effect,” Mar said.

The lawsuit outlines several specific provisions in the rule that its opponents are challenging, including the department’s redefinition of the type of sexual harassment that colleges are required to investigate, limitation on the scope of Title IX to on-campus and domestic misconduct, and requirement that a Title IX coordinator or other designated official receive “actual notice” of misconduct before a college is obligated to respond. Institutions are legally required to comply with new procedures outlined in the rule by Aug. 14.

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