Activist came to George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School holding more than 100,000 written petitions.
Moments later, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos arrived.
On Thursday, September 7th, The U.S. Department of Education announced it was rethinking a major ruling that told schools what they must do when students report rape and sexual assaults in hopes of ‘seeking revisions.’
Passed in 1972, the federal law, known as Title IX, prohibits sex discrimination in education. The Office of Civil Rights told colleges and K-12 schools ‘to investigate complaints more aggressively.’
That guidance proved controversial.
According to the Washington Post, DeVos said the era of ‘rule by letter’ is over.
“Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students,”
she said. “The department will seek public comment and university expertise to develop rules to replace the current policy.”
DeVos said she hopes to revolutionize the past Obama-directive issued back in 2011.
“The US Department of Education [and its Office for Civil Rights] believe that providing all students with an education environment free from discrimination is extremely important,” she said.
Defenders of the accused found the original directive resulted in ‘unjust findings without due process.’
Oklahoma activist Sarah Cason, 22, said millennial teens already have so much mental stress, they don’t need this.
“Turn a corner in a school, and there’s a kid having a panic attack getting deported, getting shot, or just trying to be themselves,” Cason said. “I feel sorry for these kids, it’s a damn mess.”
Cason said if it follows through, things will only get worse.
“[Reading] what she’s saying is a trip because you’re like ‘yes, exactly we need to fix some things here,’ and then she takes a turn out of nowhere,” she said.
“If trans kids aren’t protected in their schools, then there’s going to be a lot of uneducated LGBT youth trying to make it. When you have vulnerable LGBT youth, you have sex trafficking, and it all loops back to sexual assault.”
While many disagree with the upcoming changes, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford stood behind DeVeos, in a message posted on Twitter.
Lankford said he supported DeVos for Education Secretary for one main reason—that DeVos expressed her absolute commitment to transfer more control of education policy from Washington, DC to states, parents, and local leaders.
Lankford said DeVos clearly stated her commitment to public education and her commitment to families who want more options for their child’s education — if the state so chooses.
“Betsy DeVos has served in roles throughout her life that empower students and families, especially students in poverty and those with special needs.” he said. “Ms. DeVos is a non-traditional selection for Education Secretary, but there is no question that she has spent her life working to improve education in America.”
According to the New Yorker, DeVos said the stories of both the victims and the accused reject the idea that ‘the system could serve only one or the other.’
“Any school that refuses to take seriously a student who reports sexual misconduct is one that discriminates.” DeVos said. “And any school that uses a system biased toward finding a student responsible for sexual misconduct also commits discrimination.”
The article said since 2011, dozens of courts made it clear that schools that do not give the accused a fair process may also be committing sex discrimination under Title IX.
In her presentation at GMU, DeVos pointed to a case in which the University of Southern California disbelieved a female student who was insistent that her and her boyfriend merely “roughhouse.” The university expelled him for his alleged abuse over her objection.
DeVos called the current reality a “failed system” where “everyone loses.”
She noted, “Survivors aren’t well-served when they are re-traumatized with appeal after appeal because the failed system failed the accused.”
If the policy continues as planned, a potential cause and effect will occur.
Annie E. Clark, executive director of nonprofit End Rape on Campus, told the Washington Post that the Trump administration is prioritizing the interests of accusers over victims and perpetuating the myth that men are often wrongly accused of rape.
“Her announcement yesterday sends a very clear leadership signal from this administration to survivors that they don’t have their backs” Clark said. “They are more focused on this tiny percentage of false accusations, [which as you mentioned] do not happen often and yet they’re treating this as a 50-50 issue.”
As women continue their push toward greater academic and professional success, this could potentially be put at a stand still with the revisions given by DeVos. Identity in men and women is now publicly seen by two choices: the victim, and the accused.
Both groups are waiting for changes in the educational system.