National Center for Youth Law

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Women’s Student Union v. U.S. Department of Education

The Women’s Student Union (WSU) at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California filed a legal challenge to Trump-era Department of Education regulations that put students nationwide in greater danger and represent a radical departure from the way previous Democratic and Republican administrations applied Title IX to school sexual harassment, including sexual assault.

The 2020 regulations adopted by the Department of Education under Secretary DeVos serve to:

  • Limit what type of misconduct is considered sexual harassment that schools need to respond to under Title IX
  • Exclude from Title IX coverage any sexual harassment of students by other students or teachers if the harassment took place off school grounds and was not part of a school program, even if the victim then has to share a class with the harasser or otherwise struggles to learn because of the harassment.
  • Remove a school district’s obligation to redress sexual harassment under Title IX until school employees have “actual knowledge” of the harassment – even if the school should know about the harassment.
  • Require only that schools provide remedies designed to restore or preserve equal access to the individual student who complained, letting schools off the hook from addressing wider cultures of sexual harassment and hostile learning environments.
  • Limit the Department’s assessment of compliance under Title IX to whether a school addressed reported sexual harassment in a manner that is “deliberately indifferent” or “clearly unreasonable,” rather than requiring schools to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment and eliminate the hostile environment.

WSU urges the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to strike down some of the most damaging provisions of the regulations because they are inconsistent with Title IX, unreasonable, and were adopted as part of a process – headed by Secretary DeVos – that ignored the costs of sexual harassment to students across the country.