March 29, 2022

SurvJustice v. DeVos

Filing date
Case type
Direct Representation
Case jurisdiction
U.S. District Courts
Northern District of California San Francisco Division

This lawsuit was filed on behalf of SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center, three national public interest organizations, to stop U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration's Title IX policy. The lawsuit alleges that the policy was issued unlawfully and based on discriminatory beliefs about women and girls as survivors of sexual violence, in violation of the Constitution.

Over 45 years ago, Congress enacted Title IX to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. This landmark civil rights law has helped fight sex discrimination and promote equal educational access and opportunities for girls and women from the classroom to the playing field.

The reaffirmation of Title IX’s protections continued until September 2017, when the Department of Education formally rescinded sexual violence guidance documents issued in 2011 and 2014 and issued new conflicting policy documents to educational institutions.

Rather than address campus sexual misconduct, the Trump Administration rolled back critical protections for student survivors and imposed new, discriminatory barriers that will make it harder for them to come forward or obtain justice. The Administration’s new policy permits schools to institute one-sided appellate right policies that allow a student accused of sexual assault to appeal an unfavorable investigative outcome, but deny survivors of sexual assault that same right. And the new policy also allows schools to resolve claims, including those alleging sexual violence, through mediation.

The new policy is substantively unlawful and procedurally deficient. It conflicts with existing Title IX requirements and fails to provide a reasoned justification for its reversal in position. It is also based on a legally and factually mistaken view that earlier guidance limited due process protections for students.

Underlying these changes and reversals are unfounded generalizations about women and girls, particularly their credibility regarding reported experiences of sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

Thus, not only does the Department’s 2017 Title IX policy fail to meet the reasoned decision and other requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, it also violates the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee.

This lawsuit seeks to have the 2017 Title IX policy rescinded.