Gov. Wolf objects to proposed Title IX changes | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

Gov. Wolf objects to proposed Title IX changes

Deb Erdley
689585_web1_641346-c6268a28f6734439997b1a5f2df13749

One day before the deadline for comments, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf went on record opposing the federal government’s proposed rollbacks in regulations governing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault in schools and colleges.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Wolf voiced concerns Tuesday about proposed changes to enforcement of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that bars schools and colleges that receive federal aid from discriminating on the gender. Such discrimination can include both sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Directives handed down under the Obama administration demanded colleges take strong steps to combat sexual assault and harassment on campus.

DeVos, however, said those rules may have stepped on the rights of those accused of assault and harassment and placed too much liability on colleges and universities.

New federal directives on Title IX enforcement would define sexual harassment in schools as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”

Wolf’s objections come on top of concerns Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro previously voiced about the proposed changes.

DeVos, however, said the goal of the changes is “to ensure that Title IX grievance proceedings become more transparent, consistent, and reliable in their processes and outcomes.”

But Wolf, whose administration has awarded $3 million in grants to strengthen Title IX enforcement at colleges and universities across the state, said the proposals would undo years of progress for victims. He called on DeVos to reverse course.

“These proposed changes send a dangerous message that sexual harassment and sexual assault do not warrant action from our schools and campuses. If adopted, they would also undermine decades of progress built on the foundational understanding that schools have an obligation to effectively prevent and address gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence to ensure that all students have equal access to a full education,” Wolf wrote in his letter.

He urged the federal Department of Education to reconsider its proposed rules and explore ways to encourage students to access rights “Title IX should guarantee.”

“We cannot go back. We cannot tell survivors that they cannot be helped unless their victimization fits narrowly-defined criteria, or if they are willing to undertake the significant burden of a prescribed disciplinary process that prioritizes unfounded fears over evidence-based concerns for individual and collective safety and well-being,” Wolf concluded.

Federal regulators, however, said the proposed changes would continue to require colleges to respond “meaningfully to every known report of sexual harassment and to investigate every formal complaint” and promote impartial decisions in response to allegations of sexual assault and harassment.


Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.


Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: News | Pennsylvania
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.