What House Democrats may try on Title IX

HERE’S WHAT HOUSE DEMOCRATS COULD PUSH ON TITLE IX: House Democrats have vowed to fight Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposed overhaul of rules for how schools handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It’s still unclear what “bold action” they plan to take, as Democratic leader and likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised. But these bills could provide a guide.

— Title IX Protection Act, H.R. 4030 (115): Filed by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) soon after DeVos issued her temporary Title IX rules, the bill would codify many of the Obama-era rules that DeVos is replacing, including requiring schools to use the “preponderance of evidence” — essentially more likely than not — standard in disciplinary proceedings and setting a 60-day deadline for schools to investigate allegations.

— The bill has 41 Democratic co-sponsors and the support of several advocacy groups opposing DeVos’ proposal, including the National Women’s Law Center, the American Association of University Women and Know Your IX.

— But Speier told Morning Education the Title IX Protection Act doesn’t go far enough. She’s also pushing the bipartisan HALT Act, H.R. 6464 (115), which would build into the Clery Act a right for students to sue schools they say fail to meet campus safety requirements.

— The bill would also allow the department to fine schools for Title IX violations, rather than just stripping them of federal funding. And it would require the department to publish on its web site a list of schools under investigation and any findings or sanctions against those schools, among other things. “Betsy DeVos is intent on putting us in a time machine and taking us back to the Stone Age, when it was okay to drag a woman by her hair,” Speier said. “We aren’t going back.”

— The bill drew the backing of two House Republicans, as well. It was co-sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas), who did not seek re-election this year, and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), who was just re-elected to another term.

— There’s also the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, H.R. 1949 (115), which would expand reporting requirements under the Clery Actto include information about what schools are doing to address sexual harassment and assault. The legislation also would require the Education Department publish a biannual survey of students’ experiences with domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

— “We need to read the writing on the wall: without strong legal protections, women’s rights can end up on a chopping block depending on who is in the White House or in the majority in Congress,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who authored the bill, told Morning Education. She also said Democrats should make a renewed effort at passing the Equal Rights Amendment, which Congress passed in the 1970s, but it was never ratified by the states. “We need to ensure that women’s equality has the bedrock protection of the Constitution so that our lives and our rights are not subject to the whims of political tides.”

— For now, however, “the first order of business” for many Democrats is writing formal comments on the proposal, which is open for public comment until Jan. 28, a Democratic aide told Morning Education. They said Democrats are also hopeful they can have productive conversations with the department to try to influence what the final regulations may look like.

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