On May 14, 2020, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Maryland on behalf of plaintiffs Know Your IX, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Girls for Gender Equity, and Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, challenging several provisions of the U.S. Department of Education’s newly issued Title IX rule under the Administrative Procedure Act.

The provisions that are challenged in the suit include: the definition of sexual harassment to which schools must respond; the requirement that college and university students report sexual harassment or assault to a handful of designated officials in order for reports to be investigated; the use of a “deliberate indifference” standard in evaluating whether schools responded appropriately to sexual harassment complaints; and the standard of proof applicable in disciplinary hearings.

The new Title IX provisions undermine students’ civil rights and inflict significant harm on students who experience sexual harassment or assault, including students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with and without disabilities, in grade school, high school, and higher education. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s regulatory provisions are a significant departure from the Education Department’s prior Title IX standards, and dramatically reduce schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment and assault. The challenged provisions create a double standard, in which educational institutions have dramatically different obligations to respond to harassment based on sex, on the one hand, and race, national origin, and disability on the other.

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