Katko to Secretary DeVos: Prevent Disruptions to Campus Sexual Assault & Anti-Discrimination Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Syracuse, NY— U.S. Rep. John Katko (R, NY-24), urged the Department of Education to delay the effective date for new Title IX regulations, set to take effect this Friday. This effort follows conversations with local domestic violence advocates and school administrators who expressed concern about implementing changes to campus sexual assault and discrimination procedures while already working to implement safety protocols to campuses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational programming that receives federal funding. These prohibitions play a fundamental role in ensuring every student has a safe place to learn and that colleges and universities have procedures in place to respond to instances of sexual assault or harassment on campus. On May 19, 2020, Secretary DeVos published new Title IX regulations which make significant changes to the way schools must respond to instances of sex-based discrimination. With colleges and universities already facing devastating constraints on their resources as a result of COVID-19, local institutions of higher education and domestic violence organizations have expressed serious concerns about implementing systemic changes to Title IX at this time. In the interest of maintaining protections for students and avoiding further disruptions to higher education, Rep. Katko urged Secretary DeVos to delay the implementation of the new Title IX regulations by the Department of Education.
“Following conversations with local domestic violence organizations and institutions of higher education, today I urged Secretary DeVos to delay the implementation of new Title IX regulations,” said Rep. Katko. “Title IX plays a critical role in ensuring students are protected against all forms of sex-based discrimination, including instances of sexual assault and harassment. Colleges and universities already face unprecedented challenges in keeping students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical that the Department of Education work to maintain stable protections for survivors of sexual assault and harassment during this crisis.”
“As the coordinator of the Campus Project at Vera House, I am in direct contact and communication with 9 college/university campuses throughout Onondaga County. Centered in our experience working on the front lines, my team and I collectively believe the new Title IX regulations pose significant potential risk to survivor safety. Schools have been faced with the enormous task of implementing changes to their Title IX policies as equitably as possible, while also navigating their response to COVID-19. A delay in the Title IX implementation date will give schools the chance to respond appropriately to the new regulations to ensure students’ safety, a goal shared by all,” said Tiffany Brec, Campus Project Coordinator for Vera House, Inc.
“I support the efforts of Congressman Katko to seek a delay in the implementation of the proposed Title IX changes until later next year,” said Linda LeMura, President of Le Moyne College. “Beyond the fact that all institutions of higher education are focusing significant resources on the immense challenges associated with COVID-19, the widespread impact of any Title IX changes are too important to enact in a hurried fashion. We will be doing a disservice to all students if we don’t take the time to review and implement changes in a measured and well-thought out manner.”
“OCC supports postponing the implementation of any changes to Title IX regulations,” said Casey Crabill, President of Onondaga Community College. “Our efforts and our resources must be focused currently on navigating an academic year in the midst of a significant resource shortage and a persistent pandemic.”
The full text of the request can be found below:
Dear Secretary DeVos,
I write to express serious concerns regarding the growing challenges that face our nation’s colleges and universities as they respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. With institutions of higher education devoting significant attention and financial resources to keep their students safe and address the immediate impacts of this crisis, I continue to hear from educators who are concerned that these strains pose an existential threat to their school’s operations. With the dire circumstances brought on by this pandemic in mind, I respectfully request that the Department of Education thoroughly evaluate the overall impact that the current plan for the implementation of proposed regulations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) will have on America’s higher education community.
Title IX’s prohibitions against sex-based discrimination play a fundamental role in ensuring every American student has access to a safe place to learn. This includes protecting students against sexual assault or harassment and ensuring that colleges and universities have fair and responsive procedures in place to address any instance of sex-based discrimination on campus. Efforts undertaken by the Department of Education over the past decade to formalize and strengthen these protections must continue, and they must be based around the fundamental goal of ensuring the ability of survivors of sexual harassment or assault to come forward and seek care and justice.
Despite the strong commitment from educators to keep their students safe and ensure the robust enforcement of protections against sex-based discrimination, the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 make it nearly impossible for schools to implement any significant changes to Title IX proceedings at this time. With colleges and universities already being forced to rethink nearly every aspect of their operations, implementing the proposed changes to response procedures for sexual assault and harassment would only create further confusion and erode the strong enforcement mechanisms that many schools already have in place. It is critical for both students and educators that the Federal Government work to avoid further disruptions to higher education during the pandemic, especially in matters as critical as sex-based discrimination and campus safety.
In the interest of maintaining safe colleges and universities in my district in Central New York, and in communities across the United States, I respectfully request that the Department of Education delay the effective date for the Title IX regulations published on May 19, 2020. This step is not only critical to maintaining the ability of our schools to administer strong protections against sex-based discrimination, but to ensuring that schools have the necessary resources and flexibility to provide a safe learning environment for students through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.