US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has announced the Trump-Pence administration’s decision that they will be rescinding Title IX guidance. This guidance relates to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence/assault, which disproportionately affects LGBT students, and has alarmed LGBT rights groups in America.
David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign stated:
“With [Friday’s] announcement, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have clearly drawn a line in the sand, stating that they prefer it be more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to receive justice. LGBTQ Americans face disproportionate levels of sexual assault and violence. This unconscionable decision – coupled with the decision to rescind guidance aimed at protecting transgender students – sadly indicates that the Department of Education is no longer in the business of protecting students from harm.”
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. While historically known for its impact on women’s athletics admissions, Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination, as a matter of law, also requires schools to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence, as forms of sex discrimination.
In addition, Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, as evidenced by continuing case law, guidance previously issued by the Department of Education, and school district settlements to this effect.
LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and harassment, and the stigma that many LGBTQ people face can make it more difficult for survivors to report. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped, and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey of high school students, lesbian and bisexual women, and gay and bisexual men, experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their straight counterparts.
In addition, a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 60 percent of gay and lesbian students and nearly 70 percent of bisexual students report being sexually harassed on campus.
In February, DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also withdrew important guidance that clarified schools’ obligations to protect transgender students from discrimination under Title IX.