Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and all Democratic Members of the Committee in sending a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requesting information about a proposed rule that would encourage schools to pursue fewer investigations of sexual harassment and assault.
The Department is poised to finalize the rule soon.
“Under your tenure, the Department of Education has proposed a new rule that would significantly narrow Title IX’s definition of sexual harassment,” the Members wrote. “Your proposal would limit the circumstances under which schools are required to investigate sexual misconduct and make it more difficult for student survivors to resolve their claims.”
When Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendment Act in 1972, it prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex – including through sexual harassment – in educational institutions that receive federal funds.
In addition to rolling back longstanding protections for those subjected to sexual abuse, the Department failed to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of its proposed rule as required by Executive Order 12866 – discounting its costs to survivors while overestimating potential savings to schools.
“For student survivors, the medical costs associated with sexual assault are compounded by lost educational and professional opportunities, relocation and housing costs, missed paid work and foregone tuition,” the Members wrote. “Of the students who experience sexual assault, 34 percent drop out of college. The Department’s cost-benefit analysis does not appear to have taken these costs into account.”
Multiple Trump Administration officials, including Secretary DeVos, have made statements that disparage survivors of sexual assault.
The letter requested documents and information related to this inquiry by February 28, 2020.