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Suit: new Title IX rule strips sex harassment protections

The attorneys general of 18 states filed a lawsuit on June 4 alleging a new federal rule “strips away longstanding protections against sexual harassment” and will leave schools less equipped to keep students safe.

The lawsuit takes aim at regulations around the federal civil rights law Title IX that were issued in May by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and are slated to take effect in August. The new rule has been criticized by advocates, who say it underscores a need for state lawmakers to act to prevent sexual misconduct on college campuses.

“Survivors of sexual assault and harassment deserve to have their voices heard and to be protected at our educational institutions,” Massachusetts AG Maura T. Healey said. “We will not stand by as Betsy DeVos abandons students who seek a safe learning environment free from violence and discrimination.”

According to Healey’s office, the federal rules redefine sexual harassment in a way that narrows student protections and impose new procedural requirements that will reduce the number of misconduct reports. The suit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the changes from taking effect and to postpone the effective date, pending a ruling.

When the Education Department rolled out the regulation, Assistant Secretary Kenneth Marcus of the Office for Civil Rights called it “a game-changer” that “establishes that schools and colleges must take sexual harassment seriously, while also ensuring a fair process for everyone involved.”

“It marks the end of the false dichotomy of either protecting survivors, while ignoring due process, or protecting the accused, while disregarding sexual misconduct,” he said.

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