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Proposed Amendments to Title IX Expand Protections for Victims of Sexual Assault and LGBTQ+ Students

Nicky Andrews | The PhoenixThe new changes, which will go into effect later this year, also expand protections for students who face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Department of Education has unveiled proposed amendments to Title IX which will restore protections for students who are victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sex-based discrimination which were rolled back under the previous administration. The new changes, which will go into effect later this year, also expand protections for students who face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The Department of Education said in their announcement the amendments will include language to “strengthen protections for LGBTQI+ students who face discrimination.” The new rules also seek to prevent discrimination against students and faculty who are pregnant and create greater protections for parents or guardians to act on behalf of students who have faced discrimination.

The new policies were announced on June 23, the 50th anniversary of the Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972 which prevents discrimination of the basis of sex in education programs and activities. 

“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure all our nation’s students – no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love – can learn, grow, and thrive in school,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

In an email to The Phoenix, Loyola’s Title IX Coordinator Tim Love said the university is currently reviewing and researching the proposed changes to Title IX regulations. Love said students can expect more information from the Office for Equity and Compliance (OEC) in the future.

“While we don’t yet know what the Department of Education’s finalized Title IX regulations will entail, the University is committed to ensuring that Loyola’s policies and procedures remain fully compliant with the law while also demonstrating care for the whole person, consistent with our institutional mission and values,” Love wrote.

At the center of the announcement is the restoration of protections for victims of sexual assault, making good on President Biden’s campaign promise to reverse policies enacted under the Trump Administration which he said gave colleges the “green light” to ignore sexual violence.

The new guidelines expand what constitutes sexual harassment violations under Title IX to include “all forms of sex-based harassment, including unwelcome sex-based conduct that creates a hostile environment by denying or limiting a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from a school’s education program or activity,” according to a fact sheet released by the Department of Education. 

The changes also require universities to investigate and address instances of sexual assault which occur off-campus.

The previous guidelines brought about by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in May 2020 diminished the scope of sexual assault investigations schools are responsible to conduct, narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, relieved school administrations from certain legal liabilities associated with incidents and introduced new due process rights for accused students. DeVos’s rules also require schools to conduct live hearings where victims are cross examined as a part of investigations. 

According to the proposed changes released June 23, the Department of Education will roll back nearly all of these policies and reinstate sexual assault policies mirroring those put in place during the Obama administration. The Department will retain aspects of Devos’ rules which prioritize unbiased investigations and the equal rights of accused and accusers. 

“The Department’s proposed amendments will restore vital protections for students in our nation’s schools which were eroded by controversial regulations implemented during the previous Administration,” The Department of Education said in its fact sheet. “Those regulations weakened protections for survivors of sexual assault and diminished the promise of an education free from discrimination.”

Federal policy regarding the handling of sexual assault at colleges and universities is especially pertinent as a survey completed in 2019 by the Association of American Universities found that 25.9% of female undergraduate and graduate students reported being the victim of nonconsensual sexual contact. 

Loyola has found itself encumbered in controversy over these issues in recent years with students protesting the university’s handling of sexual assault incidents on campus in September 2021 and shortcomings in Loyola’s process of investigating instances of sexual assault was the subject of an investigation completed by The Phoenix in March. 

Love reiterated that until the changes are finalized and go into effect, Loyola’s current policies regarding procedures for addressing discrimination and sexual misconduct remain in place.

In a statement released by The White House, President Biden celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX and heralded the successes the law has created in gender equality and opportunity but said there is more work to be done.

The Department of Education said it drafted these proposals based on an extensive review of its regulations implementing Title IX and by reviewing comments received during a nationwide virtual public hearing on Title IX held in June 2021 as well as from separate hearings and interviews involving various stakeholders.

The proposed amendments are currently undergoing a 60 day public comment period, and barring any final alterations will officially go into effect following its conclusion. 

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