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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania

REP. COSTELLO STATEMENT ON U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S RESCISSION OF TITLE IX GUIDANCE RELATING TO SEXUAL ASSAULT PROTECTIONS FOR STUDENTS

September 22, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) today issued the following statement regarding Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ announcement that the Department would rescind Title IX guidance issued in 2011 that protects young people from sexual assault and harassment. This decision affects all the nation's colleges, universities, and K-12 schools:

"At the very least, parents expect Pennsylvania’s K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to be safe learning environments for our students, and Title IX helps uphold this standard. Any threats to a safe and healthy learning environment – especially sexual misconduct – must be taken seriously and addressed swiftly and fairly. I am concerned by Secretary DeVos' decision today to formally rescind the 2011 Title IX guidance document issued by the Department of Education that protects young people from sexual assault and harassment. I will continue paying close attention to the Department’s actions as it reevaluates existing guidance to improve due process under the law. Any new guidance MUST maintain strong protections for victims, further clarify the responsibilities of schools under Title IX, and more effectively prevent sexual assault on campus." –Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06)

In June, on the 45th anniversary of Title IX, Rep. Costello led a bipartisan letter to Secretary DeVos urging her to maintain Title IX guidance in K-12 schools that protects young people from sexual assault and harassment. The letter, signed by 52 Members of Congress, also urges Secretary DeVos to continue training for Title IX coordinators and support other critical programs that combat sexual violence in schools. 

A recent study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center found that more than 1 in 5 girls ages 14 to 18 reported being kissed or touched without their consent. The same study found that 68 percent of survivors had difficulty concentrating in class and another 30 percent reported being absent from school because they felt unsafe at school following their assault.  These statistics demonstrate that victims of sexual assault in K-12 schools face far-ranging emotional and academic consequences that can have a negative impact on their education. Continued strong focus on Title IX programs would decrease these numbers.

Rep. Costello is also a cosponsor of H.R. 1949, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This comprehensive legislation would require colleges and universities to revise campus security policies, including entering into Memorandums of Understanding with local law enforcement agencies to delineate responsibilities and share information about certain serious crimes, including sexual violence, on campus.

To read more about Rep. Costello’s June letter to Secretary DeVos, please click here and below.

Dear Secretary DeVos:

As you begin to craft the priorities of the U.S. Department of Education, we ask you to consider an issue of great importance: protecting young people from sexual and dating violence.   As you know, K-12 schools have a responsibility under Title IX to take measures to prevent sexual violence and harassment in schools and to promptly investigate these instances when they occur.   We request that you prioritize efforts to combat sexual violence and harassment at K-12 schools by maintaining the 2011 Title IX guidance document issued by the Department and to supporting other critical programs that combat sexual violence in our schools.

All children deserve a learning environment in K-12 schools that is free from sexual violence and harassment.  While sexual violence and harassment has received great attention at the collegiate level, we know that most of the behavior we see on our college campuses didn’t begin there.  Many of the attitudes and behaviors begin much earlier, and if addressed early might prevent more serious incidents of rape and sexual assault.  Sexual harassment and assault, including cyber bullying that often accompanies assaults, can have a profound effect on victims, forcing many to drop out of school and in some of the most devastating instances drive a student to take her or his own life.

The numbers illustrate this point far too well.  Sexual and family violence are two of the biggest drivers of youth suicide, and are also unseen drivers of absenteeism and drop-out, particularly for girls.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of rape victims were first raped before the age of 18, and youth suicide is increasing, with the rate of suicide among 10-14 year olds doubling since 2007. In a study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center in January of 2017, more than 1 in 5 girls ages 14 to 18 reported being kissed or touched without their consent.  The same study found that 68 percent of survivors had difficulty concentrating in class and another 30 percent reported being absent from school because they felt unsafe at school.   Continued strong focus of Title IX programs would decrease these numbers.  

As you know, under Title IX schools have a responsibility to address and prevent sexual violence and harassment.  In 2011, the Department of Education issued guidance to K-12 schools – in response to their request for more information – regarding how they can meet their Title IX obligations.  This guidance document provides clear guidelines to schools on how to respond to reported incidents of sexual violence and harassment.  By providing clarity to schools on how to respond, the guidance has driven a more thorough and fair process for all involved.  We believe it is vital this guidance be maintained and ask you to preserve it throughout your tenure as Secretary.

In addition to maintaining the guidance document, we ask that you support training and education for Title IX coordinators and school personnel in K-12 schools.  Schools need this targeted technical assistance to ensure they have the training to fairly and adequately enforce the intent of the law.   Having a knowledgeable and well-trained faculty is essential to ensuring our K-12 schools are free from sexual harassment and violence, and we hope the Department will continue to provide this support. 

Finally, as you continue your work as Secretary of Education we ask you to engage in active outreach and dialogue with survivors of sexual assault in K-12 schools and their advocates.  This is essential to ensuring the Department is hearing from all voices and is crafting policies that are responsive to the needs of victims.  This is an important part of ensuring that our K-12 schools are safe spaces for all.

We believe you share our commitment to these issues and were encouraged by your comments in March of this year when you said, “We all have a common responsibility to ensure every student has access to a safe and nurturing learning environment.”

We ask the Department to preserve the 2011 Title IX guidance for K-12, schools, support Title IX coordinators at K-12 schools, and engage the voice of victims of assault as the Department moves forward in these areas.   We look forward to working with you to ensure that our K-12 schools are free from sexual assault and violence.

Sincerely,

Reps. Ryan Costello (PA-6), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Patrick Meehan (PA-7), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2), David Joyce (OH-14), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Tom Reed (NY-23), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Gwen Moore (WI-4). Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Elise M. Stefanik (NY-21), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5), Judy Chu (CA-27), José E. Serrano (NY-15), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), David Cicilline (RI-1), Jacky Rosen (NV-3), Sander M. Levin (MI-9), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Adam Smith (WA-9), Bobby Scott (VA-3), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Lois Frankel (FL-21), John Yarmuth (KY-3), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Mike Thompson (CA-5), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), David Scott (GA-13), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), A. Donald McEachin (VA-4), Stacey Plaskett (VI-AL), Al Green (TX-9), Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Richard M. Nolan (MN-8), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Mark Takano (CA-41), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Jared Huffman (CA-2). 

 

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