Advance Notice: Briefs

Slotkin pushes back on DeVos’ Title IX changes with legislation

By: - December 12, 2019 5:48 am

Elissa Slotkin (left) | Betsy DeVos (right)

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) proposed legislation this week to protect sexual assault survivors and stop U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposed Title IX changes. 

In November 2018, DeVos initiated rollbacks to President Obama-era policies that held colleges and universities to higher standards when it came to handling accusations of sexual assault and harassment. 

The proposed changes would raise legal standards for what constitutes sexual harassment, make it more to difficult to report and decide on claims of sexual harassment and limit a school’s responsibility to address sexual harassment based on where the harassment occurred and to whom it was reported. 

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These rules would have shielded, and in some cases prohibited, Michigan State University from taking action on the Title IX claims against sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, who has been sent to prison for sexually assaulting hundreds of girls and women over the course of 20 years. 

“As the representative of the Michigan State University community that has been so deeply affected by sexual assault on campus, I cannot understand why Secretary DeVos continues to move forward with proposed changes to Title IX that make it harder for victims to come forward with a successful claim,” Rep. Slotkin said in a statement Tuesday. 

Slotkin established a Title IX district advisory board made up of survivors, advocates, legal experts and education professionals that she collaborates with to create legislation to prevent sexual assault.

DeVos has received over 100,000 formal comments regarding her proposed rule changes and asking her to reconsider the challenges this would create for victims of sexual assault. 

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“I have done everything I can think of to appeal to Secretary DeVos to change course: I’ve submitted a formal comment on the rules and sent letters opposing her proposed changes, I‘ve sent Freedom of Information requests, and met with her personally, all with the goal of reversing course,” Slotkin said. “Given that Secretary DeVos insists on moving forward, I felt compelled to introduce this legislation that prevents those rules from taking effect.”

Slotkin introduced the legislation alongside U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.).

Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke at Eastern Michigan University for the fifth annual “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” Summit. 

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Michigan offers a campus sexual assault grant to colleges and universities to encourage prevention programs. The state has allocated more than $4.5 million to the grant program since it started in 2015, and the state increased the allocation to $2 million in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

“Michigan, in many ways, is a leader in addressing sexual assault on our college campuses and beyond,” Whitmer said at the summit. “We are also an example of failure, and that’s why it’s so important that we take this moment and we continue to move forward.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.