Tell Betsy DeVos to Support Survivors!

Last fall, the Department of Education rescinded earlier guidance about Title IX. On November 29, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed changing the underlying regulations that govern how Title IX is implemented in schools and universities. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex — which can include sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault — in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Through the proposed rule, DeVos would change Title IX from a law that protects women, girls, and LGBTQ students from sex discrimination into a law that protects schools that permit and enable sex discrimination. Schools would be allowed — and in many cases required — to ignore most students who report sexual harassment and disregard the needs of survivors.  Further, the rule would change the definition of sexual harassment and narrow the scope of responsibility so that colleges and universities have less obligation to investigate. If adopted, the change would have the force of law.

Comments on the proposed rule are accepted through January 30, 2019.

Instructions for submitting comments

  1. Use the NCJW template (below) to help format and write your unique comment.
  2. Follow the link to the Federal Register website where you will upload or paste the text into the comment box.
  3. Fill out the biographical information following and use National Council of Jewish Women as the organization and your own name as the submitter representative (this information will appear publicly in the register).
  4. Click “submit comment” where you will be taken to a page to enter your email address if you would like a receipt of your submission.
  5. Ask your friends and family to submit a comment, too!

Template Comment:

Re: Docket No. ED-2018-OCR-0064, RIN 1870-AA14, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance

I am writing in response to the Department of Education’s (ED) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (proposed rule) to express our strong opposition to the proposed rules relating to sexual harassment as published in the Federal Register on November 29, 2018. The proposed rule would make schools more dangerous for all students and goes against our fundamental Jewish values to pursue justice. We urge that the rule is withdrawn in its entirety and that long-standing integrity of the Title IX provisions are upheld.

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is dedicated to improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. As the first and most progressive Jewish women’s organization, we have 125 years of experience in being a leading voice for justice in the United States. Our core principle of “human rights and dignity are fundamental and must be guaranteed to all individuals” guides our work to advance the well-being of women and all others who are survivors of sexual harassment and assault. NCJW endorses and resolves to work for laws, policies, programs, and services that protect every woman from all forms of abuse, exploitation, harassment, discrimination, and violence. [Include any relevant section information here.]

Our Jewish values teach us to treat every human being with dignity and respect because each one of us is made in the image of G-d. The Torah teaches that we are obligated to pursue justice for all, we must always take action when we see an injustice, and we must “do what is right and what is good” (Deuteronomy 6:18). Every human being, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability is deserving of full inclusion and every opportunity.

Throughout our history, NCJW has prioritized the most pressing issues of the moment. Today, this critical work includes ensuring school administrations don’t trivialize and ignore the sexual harassment and assault experiences of students. Protecting women and all those victimized by violence, assault, and harassment has been at the forefront of NCJW’s work since 1893. [Add in state legislative efforts and/or section efforts.]

NCJW believes that sexual harassment should never be the end of anyone’s education. Yet the proposed rule would allow schools, in many cases, to ignore students who report sexual harassment. This would not only minimize the severity of this pervasive issue in schools around the country but would lead to survivors leaving school more often than not.

The Department of Education should immediately withdraw its current proposal and dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that ensure equal access to education for all students, including students who experience sexual harassment and assault.