Beshear Fights Proposed Federal Rollbacks of Title IX Protections for Survivors of Sexual Harassment, Violence
Attorney General Andy Beshear is urging federal officials to withdraw a proposed rule that would undermine the anti-discrimination protections of a nearly 50-year-old civil rights statute that guarantees equal access to educational programs and activities free of discrimination based on sex.
Beshear, whose core mission is to seek justice for survivors of crime, is fighting the U.S. Department of Education’s attempts to rollback student protections against sexual harassment and violence afforded to them under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
The federal definition of sexual harassment includes rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.
The education department published its proposed changes to Title IX on Nov. 29, 2018, in the Federal Register, claiming they are actually procedures to help implement Title IX.
Beshear and a coalition of state attorneys general think otherwise and have sent their concerns to the federal agency, saying the proposed changes are inconsistent with Title IX and constitute an inappropriate exercise of the Education Department’s rulemaking authority.
“We are talking about the rollback of protections that have been in place for nearly a half a century that protect our students from being subjected to discrimination based on their gender,” Beshear said. “These proposed changes by Secretary Betsy DeVos and her agency jeopardize victim safety and cut off necessary protections by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, by setting limits on a school’s obligation to respond to sexual harassment, and by establishing new requirements for filing a complaint that will make it harder, and possibly even deter victims, from reporting.”
Beshear said he is fighting these proposed changes out of a deep concern for the well-being of Kentucky’s students, families and teachers, “all of whom have the right to access education in a safe environment free from sexual harassment, violence and discrimination.”
Over the past three years, Beshear and his Office of Victims Advocacy have been working to seek justice for victims of violent crimes, like domestic violence and sexual assault.
In an effort to raise awareness, Beshear has traveled to Kentucky’s colleges and universities to encourage students to participate in PSA video contests supported by his office and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs to promote the 24/7 free and confidential Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-HOPE.
Under his office, Beshear has created a survivors council directly advising and assisting the Office of Attorney General on matters related to victims of crime, including training, awareness and policy initiatives. The council includes individuals who have survived the violent death of a family member, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, gun violence and other violent crimes.
The office has sponsored training for teams of prosecutors, detectives, advocates and university personnel to effectively investigate and prosecute sexual assault. Another three-day training is scheduled this spring.
In sending concerns to the U.S. Department of Education, Beshear is joined by attorneys general in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.