On early Friday morning, more than 90 national organizations published a letter addressed to the administration of the President Trump demanding that the federal government enforce Title IX.
Title IX is "a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded educational program or activity," according to the United States Department of Justice. While Title IX is best known for requiring equal treatment for female and male student athletes, it also offers other important protections in areas including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and protections for trans students and parents.
Addressed to United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the letter details specific requests that include gender-based violence prevention programs, implementing appropriate channels for survivors to obtain justice and protection for undocumented students from being target of their immigration status.
The letter was released Friday and the group is calling for a national day of action in support of Title IX. The #CantTrumpOurTitleIX campaign will be accompanied by demonstrations on more than a dozen university campuses across the country.
"As students, faculty, and survivor advocates across the country, we strive every day to reduce cases of gender-based violence, yet the number of students experiencing violence remains too high," the letter begins. . "Because it is our collective responsibility to work to create communities that support survivors of violence, we urge you to vigorously enforce Title IX."
The number of undergraduate college students experiencing gender Violence based on violence is staggering: an estimated 24 percent of trans students, 23 percent of female students, and 5.4 percent of male students report being sexually assaulted on campuses across the country.
Emily Dunlap, a student at the University of Kentucky and organizer of the school's Feminist Alliance, explained to The Huffington Post why her university's Feminist Alliance program signed the letter.
"We want all survivors of sexual assault to feel comfortable and protected when they report to the proper authorities," Dunlap said. “We want to make sure that survivors receive the appropriate accommodations, both medical and educational, and that they do not feel penalized in any way for showing up; We do not want any report to go without an investigation. ”
“ We want to make sure that survivors do not feel punished in any way for coming forward. ”
– Emily Dunlap, undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky
Most of the organizations that jointly signed the letter are feminist groups and / or programs against sexual violence in the University. campus. Colleges and universities on the list include Columbia University, Duke University, Notre Dame, Louisiana State University, George Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Kentucky, and many more. Other national organizations outside of universities include the Trans Youth Equality Foundation, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence and One Billion Rising.
"No student should experience gender-based violence, nor should schools ignore threats to a student's safety or ability to learn," the letter says. “We will not rest until the rights and protection of all students are guaranteed, especially survivors of gender violence.”
The demands included in the letter are particularly relevant now, as the Trump administration has begun to reverse the protections originally included in Title IX.
In February, Trump announced that his administration will no longer prohibit schools from discriminating against trans students in K-12 schools and college campuses across the country. The level of arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in recent weeks has also been unprecedented, with law enforcement detaining several undocumented college students in February. Last week, a Columbia University sophomore sued the school for violating her rights under Title IX.
Sarah Gutman, a Harvard law student and member of the graduate program's Harassment and Assault law team, told HuffPost that she hopes DeVos will take note of her demands.
“We hope that the administration, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in particular, will realize the fundamental importance of Title IX and its promise,” Gutman said. "All students deserve equal access to education and that can only happen through the application of Title IX."
Brandee Blocker, No Red Tape organizer and a third-year Columbia law student, told HuffPost that she became involved in the anti-sexual violence organization after Columbia allegedly mishandled her sexual assault case in April 2015.
When she joined No Red Tape in October 2015, Blocker says she felt empowered to report the very systems that failed to bring her attacker to justice. Now, he is leading the charge to demand that Title IX, and all its protections, remain intact.
“When universities fail to protect or respond adequately to these crimes, the impact goes beyond the incidents of sexual violence themselves.”
– Brandee Blocker, law student at Columbia University
“When universities do not protect or respond adequately to these crimes, the impact goes beyond incidents of violence sexuality in themselves, in the academic, economic, emotional and physical lives and well-being, "Blocker told HuffPost.
Blocker said he hopes the Trump administration is listening and recognizing the more than 90 organizations that are demanding that Title IX be enforced.
"By affirming from the beginning the right to be free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender," he said, "university students are in the best position to create and promote a future world and culture, where sexual violence is not tolerated."
Read the full letter and list of demands here.
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