Statement of U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner on Trump Administration's Rollback of Protections for Survivors of Sexual Assault
May 06 2020
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement on the Trump Administration’s final regulation detailing the responsibilities of elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities for addressing sexual harassment and assault:
“With regard to the serious issues of sexual assault and harassment, the needs of survivors must come first. The Administration’s failure with this final rule affects students of all ages and is a serious deviation from its responsibility. The rule recklessly violates the intent behind Title IX to ensure educational equity for all students. It inappropriately limits the situations in which schools must act to address sexual misconduct and allows a number of practices that will make campus adjudication processes less supportive of survivors. With so many students away from their physical learning settings due to COVID-19, we may not immediately see the full impact of this misguided regulation. But make no mistake: it undoubtedly makes students less safe.”
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment free from discrimination because of sex. Over the past two decades, both Democratic and Republican administrations have interpreted the law and provided guidance to encourage survivors to come forward and report – until now. Sexual assault on college and university campuses and in K-12 schools is notoriously underreported and, too often, adjudication processes and survivor support services vary from campus to campus, making fairness and transparency all the more elusive.
Senator Warner is an original cosponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would establish stronger incentives for all universities, including those in Virginia, to empower student survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.
In January 2019, Sen. Warner laid out his concerns with a previous – though largely similar – version of the Administration’s proposal and called on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to go back to the drawing board with her approach. In September 2017, Sen. Warner called the Trump Administration’s decision to review previous guidelines on campus sexual assault a “red flag” and called for Secretary DeVos to prioritize the interests of sexual assault survivors in the rulemaking process.