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Friday, September 09, 2022

AG HEALEY SUPPORTS FEDERAL PROPOSAL AIMED AT STRENGTHENING PROTECTIONS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS

AG HEALEY SUPPORTS FEDERAL PROPOSAL AIMED AT STRENGTHENING PROTECTIONS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS 

Proposed Rule Would Roll Back Harmful Trump Administration Policy that AG Healey Challenged in Court 

 

BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in support of the federal government’s proposed rule aimed at strengthening protections against sex discrimination — including sexual violence and harassment — under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Title IX requires schools to provide educational programs and activities free from sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.  

 

In the comment letter, led by California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the coalition applauds the federal government’s efforts to reverse many of the critical missteps of the Trump-era rulemaking and highlights additional areas for regulatory action under Title IX to help combat sex discrimination in all its forms. 

 

“Our students deserve a safe learning environment that is free from violence and discrimination,” said AG Healey. “We commend the U.S. Department of Education for restoring these critical protections under Title IX and recommend additional steps to make this rule as strong as possible so that students’ voices are heard, and our educational institutions can ensure equitable access.”    

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Education abruptly deviated from more than 30 years of consistent implementation of Title IX to impose an onerous and harmful new process for Title IX sexual violence and harassment proceedings in schools. The department promulgated new rules that work to significantly change how Title IX is enforced. These amendments simultaneously weaken protections for individuals subjected to sexual violence and harassment and burden schools with duplicative, courtroom-like Title IX proceedings. Rather than supporting state efforts to implement Title IX, the 2020 amendments hinder ongoing work to prevent and stop school-based sexual violence and assault at the state level. The 2020 amendments also impose unnecessary barriers to student survivors seeking relief unique only to sexual harassment. These changes were put in place despite clear warnings from AG Healey as well as other attorneys general the year prior. Accordingly, AG Healey joined a coalition of eighteen states which subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the previous federal government’s final rule in an effort to protect students and empower schools to ensure equal opportunity on their campuses. 

 

The states strongly support the current efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to end many of the harms imposed by the 2020 rule by creating comprehensive standards for Title IX that better meet its primary objectives, i.e., to provide individuals with effective protection against sex discrimination and harassment and to ensure that federal funds are not used to support such misconduct. The current proposed rule realigns Title IX’s implementing regulations with the statute’s nondiscrimination mandate. It also helps preserve schools’ resources by limiting potential duplication of procedures. Additionally, of particular importance to the states, the proposal complements state laws that ensure greater protections for survivors, while preserving the rights of respondents under Title IX to fair and equitable proceedings. 

 

In the comment letter, the coalition addresses how the proposed rule: 

 

·       Better effectuates Title IX and aligns with congressional intent and longstanding practices; 

·       Standardizes and codifies definitions and procedures across Title IX enforcement; 

·       Improves the sexual violence and harassment complaint process for students in colleges and K-12 schools; 

·       Realigns Title IX’s sexual harassment standards and higher education proceedings to ensure a prompt and equitable resolution process for all students; 

·       Reinforces critical protection against discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnant and parenting status; and 

·       May be further strengthened to help combat sex discrimination in all its forms. 

 

In filing the comment letter, AG Healey joins the attorneys general of California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. 

 

A copy of the comment letter is available here. 

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