Betsy DeVos

DeVos’ Day in Court

On January 25, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, her Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and the Department of Education (DoE) as a whole were sued by three civil rights organizations: SurvJustice, Equal Rights Advocates, and the Victim Rights Law Center.

The beginning of the 41 page lawsuit states the following:

Plaintiffs SurvJustice, Inc., Equal Rights Advocates, and Victim Rights Law Center bring this action against Defendants U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Elisabeth DeVos, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson seeking vacatur of the Department’s new policy, as expressed in a Dear Colleague Letter and Question and Answers guidance issued on September 22, 2017, concerning Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. (emphasis added)

The lawsuit centers on a decision made by the DoE back in September 2017 to rescind the Obama administration’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and 2014 Question and Answer document. At that time, the DoE stated that “the withdrawn documents ignored notice and comment requirements, [and] created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”

As a replacement for those documents, the DoE issued its own interim guidance document, and the aforementioned organizations are now legally requesting that this document be invalidated for violating notice and comment requirements and basic elements of fundamental fairness.

The lawsuit is worth reading, but it is important to point out that many of the claims made in this lawsuit run in contradiction with a memo written by four feminist law professors at Harvard Law School regarding Title IX’s recent implementation.

Within the next several months, the DoE will most likely begin to fully initiate and finalize the notice and comment process necessary for instituting a more permanent replacement for its September guidance, which would make the central issue in this lawsuit no longer relevant.

Until that process is formally commenced, this lawsuit will be a thorn in the side of the DoE’s actions regarding Title IX and more fodder for DeVos’ critics.

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