AG Nessel and Gov. Whitmer join 17 attorneys in defending Title IX
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel with the support and coordination of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, joined 17 other attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Education's final rule violating Title IX's mandate that "no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of sex while participating in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
In a statement, Nessel says If the rules were to go into effect, the final rule will weaken protections for sexual assault and harassment victims.
“I find it appalling that the Department of Education would spend its time and resources on weakening protections for sexual assault and harassment victims on school campuses here in Michigan and across this nation. This is a blatant disregard for the pain and fear victims of sexual assault and harassment face, and discourages reporting of these offenses,” said Nessel. “The fact of the matter is this: the final rule will make educational institutions less safe and diminish their ability to promptly deter, stop and prevent sexual harassment and violence. That reason alone is enough for Governor Whitmer and I to protect our students and join this lawsuit as the State of Michigan”
“As a survivor and a mother, it pains me to see how these new rules will water down Title IX protections for our students, which is why Michigan is joining several other states in challenging these new rules,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “It’s important to stand up to efforts to weaken student protections against sexual harassment and violence that undermine the intent of Title IX. These rules will do nothing to change the culture of campus sexual assault and strongly discourages victim disclosure.”
Student sexual harassment is rampant within schools across the country. In fact, in grades 7-12, 56% of girls and 40% of boys are sexually harassed. In college, nearly two-thirds of both men and women will experience sexual harassment.
Nessel says the problem itself is vastly underreported and under-addressed, but instead of encouraging enforcement of Title IX's antidiscrimination promise, the federal government has violated key protections by discouraging reporting and sowing confusion on campuses across the country.
The coalition says the new rule will cause irreparable harm to primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools in the state across the nation. The USDOE's new regulations would:
-Narrow the protections for students and others by redefining “sexual harassment” to exclude a broad spectrum of discriminatory conduct from Title IX’s reach, arbitrarily excluding incidents of sexual harassment based on where they occur, and limiting when schools can respond to serious sexual misconduct;
-Require extensive and unnecessary new procedural requirements that will reduce the number of reports and investigations and undermine the ability of schools to provide a fair process to all students;
-Force schools to dismiss any reports of sexual harassment that happen outside the guidelines of the new rule, requiring schools to adopt parallel code of conduct provisions to keep their campuses safe. But this will also cause confusion and chill reporting; and
-Demand schools make significant changes by mid-August in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will require schools to bypass the mechanisms that allow students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members to help shape important school policies.
The State of Michigan joins the attorneys general in states such as California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin in filing this lawsuit.