|RICHMOND (March 27, 2020) – With Virginians and schools nationwide addressing the COVID-19 virus, Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in urging the Trump Administration to suspend its ongoing efforts to implement proposed Title IX rules that threaten protections at K-12 schools, colleges, and universities across the nation. The U.S. Department of Education proposed rule changes to Title IX in 2018.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought and others, the attorneys general are asking for the suspension of the rulemaking process until these institutions resume normal operations.
“Now is just not the time for the Trump Administration to continue with their plans to cut crucial protections for students who are survivors of sexual assault and harassment,” said Attorney General Herring. “Schools in Virginia and around the country have closed to keep their students, teachers and staff safe and administrators are focused on making sure that their students continue to learn in this new environment. I have strongly opposed these proposed changes to Title IX rules since they were first introduced but trying to implement them when the rest of the country is focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 would be just disgraceful.”
With at least 124,000 public and private schools—representing over 93 percent of all K-12 institutions—closed or planning to close, and more than 1,100 colleges and universities are temporarily closed and transitioning to remote learning, the attorneys general said prudence is the proper response.
“Finalizing the proposed rule now would … cause significant confusion about ongoing Title IX complaints and investigations, which have already been disrupted by the sudden closures and social distancing requirements,” the letter reads. “With everything our schools and students are facing right now, we strongly urge you not to impose further substantial regulatory burdens.”
Attorney General Herring filed official comments opposing the proposed rule changes to Title IX in January 2019. The proposed rules would reduce reporting of incidents of sexual violence, reduce and narrow protections that ensure the safety of students and faculty, tilt the balance of power towards alleged perpetrators, compromise the confidentiality of survivors, and make students feel less safe on campus. Previously, Attorney General Herring sent a letter to Secretary DeVos asking her to maintain the Department of Education’s commitment to protecting college and university students from sexual violence on campuses. In 2015, Attorney General Herring chaired Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, which developed 21 policy recommendations that helped make Virginia a national leader in the movement to end campus sexual violence.
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending the letter to Secretary DeVos are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.