September 21, 2020
Rule would weaken protections for survivors of sexual violence in schools
Carson City, NV - Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford joined a coalition of 18 states and territories filing an amended complaint to block the U.S. Department of Education's new Title IX rule. Previously in January 2019, AG Ford submitted a comment letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education urging federal officials to withdraw this proposed rule. Among other changes, the amended complaint adds the State of Nevada as a plaintiff in this case.
The new Title IX rule weakens protections against sexual harassment and violence for students, and imposes new requirements on schools and students that would be a significant departure from the fundamental purpose of Title IX. The proper enforcement of Title IX is immensely important to Nevada and all states. As administrators of educational institutions, states will be bound by the Education Department's final rules. Nevadans have a deep concern for the well-being of their resident students, families and teachers, all of whom have the right to access education in a safe environment free from sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. This complaint expresses Nevada's strong interest in vigorously enforcing state anti-discrimination laws that promote students' ability to learn in a safe environment free from violence and harassment.
"Title IX is a landmark law that for almost 30 years has required schools with federal funding to provide students with an educational environment free from sexual harassment," said AG Ford. "Sexual harassment can have no place in our schools, and the State of Nevada is proud to be a part of this fight. As we mourn the passing of Justice Ginsburg, a stalwart vote for gender equality in schools, I am honored to continue this fight in her memory."
The new Title IX rule would thwart the very purpose of Title IX in several ways, including:
- Improperly narrowing the definition of sexual harassment;
- Restricting schools' ability to address harassment that occurs progressively;
- Exacerbating factors that prevent students from reporting sexual harassment and violence;
- Limiting schools' obligation to respond to sexual harassment and violence that occurs outside "an educational program or activity"; and
- Mandating unfair and inequitable grievance procedures that would burden schools and students alike.
In early June, a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging sweeping reforms the U.S. Department of Education proposed to provisions governing enforcement Title IX. The plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and sought a preliminary injunction or a stay of implementation of the new regulations, pending the outcome of the challenge. The District Court issued a scheduling order setting a schedule for briefing the merits of plaintiffs' claims for relief. In the interim, the plaintiffs have filed an amended complaint that, among other changes, adds the State of Nevada as a plaintiff in the case.
In addition to Nevada, other states participating in this lawsuit include: California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
The amended complaint is attached.