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Sunday January 17th

DOE no longer releasing weekly Title IX investigation updates

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.
Buy Photos U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education has stopped releasing weekly updates about ongoing Title IX investigations with no notice.

The Office for Civil Rights used to publish a list of universities with ongoing Title IX investigations and provide details on which universities were added or removed and why. Starting in January, the office began releasing a monthly list instead with some changes to the information provided.

The new monthly list encompasses Title IX investigations beyond sexual harassment and includes both secondary and postsecondary institutions. It does not highlight which institutions have been added or removed, and the only details provided are the name of the institution, the date the investigation began and the type of discrimination.

The new list does not disclose how the investigations removed were resolved.

The department has not released a statement explaining why it chose the new method of communication, but Beth Posner, a professor at the UNC School of Law who has worked on Title IX cases, thinks the department does not want to hold universities accountable.

“It is a signal that the department is not interested in taking these cases seriously,” she said. “And they do not want to be open to scrutiny.”

This change in communication comes after the department rescinded Obama-era guidance on Title IX enforcement for colleges in September. The Trump administration has made it clear it thought the guidance was a federal overreach, Posner said.

“They do not seem to believe that sexual violence is an epidemic on college campuses,” she said.

After rescinding the guidance, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released an interim sexual violence Q&A for universities. In a statement, DeVos said she plans to release guidance on how universities can respond to discrimination.

The department has not released clues on what they will change, so we don’t know what is going to happen next, Posner said.

“At the very least, we can expect a recommendation that the standard of proof be changed,” she said.

The UNC Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office said it doesn’t expect the change in communication to affect its work.

After the Department of Education rescinded guidance, the UNC office released a statement in October saying it would participate in the public comment period and continue to accept feedback from the University community.

Although the department has not released its new guidance yet, Posner said the change in communication is a disappointing sign.

“The department is no longer interested in being transparent, which is just another signal to us that it is no longer promising for the future of Title IX,” she said.

The Daily Tar Heel reached out to numerous Title IX organizations about the policy, but those contacted either did not know about the policy or did not respond. 

@ampogarcic

state@dailytarheel.com

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