U.S. Department of Education Moves to Roll Back Title IX Protections for Sexual Misconduct

AAUW opposes changes; releases study showing schools dramatically underreport harassment and violence

WASHINGTON – Federal education officials took steps today that could make it more difficult for students to report incidents of sexual harassment and violence—and easier for schools to ignore them when they do. The U.S. Department of Education announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would diminish protections under Title IX, the 1972 law that bars gender discrimination at schools and colleges receiving federal funds. The proposed rule changes are subject to a 60-day comment period before taking effect.

“Today’s announcement reflects another in a long line of roll backs of civil rights protections that we’ve seen in the past two years,” said American Association of University Women (AAUW) Chief Executive Officer Kim Churches. “This administration would let schools and colleges off the hook when it comes to ensuring the safety of their students. Any action that limits recourse for students who experience sexual harassment or assault in schools is flat-out wrong. These proposed rules are completely at odds with the promise of Title IX – access for all students to an education free from sex discrimination.”

Specifically, the proposed rule would weaken Title IX’s protections by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, which could exclude much of the abuse students experience. It would also limit how schools will respond to reports of sexual harassment and violence. In addition, the rule would allow processes that make it harder for students to come forward and receive the support they need when they experience sexual harassment or assault.

The Department’s announcement stands in stark contrast to the findings of a new AAUW examination of reporting of sexual harassment and violence, which revealed:

  • 89 Percent of College Campuses Reported Zero Incidents of Rape. AAUW’s analysis of 2016 data reported under the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities who participate in federal financial aid programs to disclose campus crime statistics and security information, shows that the vast majority (89 percent) of 11,000 college and university campuses failed to disclose even a single reported incident of rape that year.
  • 79 Percent of Schools with Grades 7-12 Had Zero Reports of Sexual Harassment. AAUW also analyzed 2015-16 data from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from 96,000 public and public charter P-12 educational institutions — including magnet schools, special education schools, alternative schools, and juvenile justice facilities. It found that more than three-fourths (79 percent) of the 48,000 public schools with grades 7 through 12 disclosed zero reported allegations of harassment or bullying on the basis of sex.

“Any school reporting zero incidents of sexual harassment or violence raises a red flag because this does not square with what research shows students experience,” said Churches. “We need to ensure that schools do a better job of encouraging students to report any sexual harassment or violence they experience — and of properly responding to and reporting those incidents.

“Unfortunately, the Department of Education’s proposed rule changes would move us in the opposite direction of where we need to go and allow schools to ignore these serious civil rights violations. AAUW is adamantly opposed to the proposed regulations and are encouraging our members and supporters nationwide to make sure that they’re not implemented.”


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) advances gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and more than 800 college and university members. Learn more and join us at www.aauw.org.