Commentary: Did you know?

The public is invited to the City of Atascadero Strategic Planning Workshop set for today, Friday, Jan. 25, at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 26 at 8:30 a.m., at the Council Chambers, 6500 Palma Ave., Lewis Avenue side. Let your City Council know your concerns and help plan the next two years for our city.

Over 3,000 walked in the Women’s March Saturday in SLO. The theme of the march was “Truth to Power,” referring to the record-breaking year for women and minorities running for office, and speaking out against sexual violence in the world of work and colleges. I have written about Title IX and how important it is to our civil rights especially for girls and women. Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972, is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. It covers all students and staff in any educational institution or program that receives federal funding, including local school districts, colleges and universities, for-profit schools, career and technical education agencies, libraries, and museums.

Women and girls have made tremendous progress in education during the past 100 years, overcoming being openly excluded or limited from higher education. Today women make up the majority of undergraduates on college campuses.

In spite of these gains, American Association of University Women (AAUW) research reports 56 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys in grades 7 to 12 face sexual harassment. Of that number, 87 percent said it had a negative effect on them. Girls have 1.2 million fewer chances to play sports in high school than boys. Less than two-thirds of African-American and Hispanic girls play sports, while more than three-quarters of white girls do. Just 12 percent of engineers are women. Pregnant and parenting students are often steered toward separate, less rigorous schools.

In addition, women hold a disproportionate amount of the nation’s outstanding student debt. AAUW reports 2016, women hold almost two-thirds of the $833 billion outstanding student loan debt in the US. NYT reported in August 2018, the average default rate for public colleges is 13.5 percent and 24.9 percent for private for-profit schools.

In September 2017, AAUW urged the Department of Education to protect Title IX, preserve all of its current regulations and guidance, and fully enforce the law.

“Although sexual harassment and sexual violence can happen to anyone, university and college women are disproportionately affected, impeding their safety, comfort, access to education, and ability to participate in campus life. Both sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination covered under Title IX. The law protects students from sexual harassment and violence that occur in the course of a school’s education programs and activities. Once a school knows of or reasonably should have known about sexual harassment or sexual assault on campus, Title IX requires the school to promptly investigate the complaint and take steps to protect its students.”

In 2017, advocates for Title IX started a campaign to persuade colleges to maintain the Obama administration’s tough policies for protecting women on campuses from sexual assault, while Betsy DeVos, secretary of the Department of Education under Trump, began the process to relax enforcement.

One in 5 women are sexually harassed by the time they reach and/or are in college. Since 1987, six national studies — including one released in early 2016 by the Department of Justice — show as many as 1 in 4 college women are sexually assaulted in college, clearly supporting the need for strong enforcement of IX.

In September 2018, DeVos scrapped federal rules created under the Obama administration and replaced them with interim guidance while the Department of Education crafted new rules. The changes allow schools to require a tougher standard of evidence for abuses based on sex than for other civil rights violations, such as those based on race. A suit has been filed alleging DeVos’ rules violate federal law by advising schools to use narrower criminal definitions of sexual wrongdoing than those found in Title IX.

DeVos will be issuing discriminatory rules that apply only to violence against women and subject victims of sex-based harm to second-class treatment on college campuses,” according to the Associated Press in 2017.

The DofEd also seeks to dismantle important Title IX protections including — 1. Reducing the employees who are required to respond to reports of sexual harassment and violence; 2. Requiring schools to ignore harassment that occurs outside of a school activity, such as online harassment; 3. Allowing schools to use processes that make it more difficult for students to come forward and receive support when they are victims of assault or harassment. These changes could usher in a new era of stigmatizing young women who speak up when they have been sexually assaulted by fellow students.

Take action, go online to and click on “The Attack on Title IX,” click on “Take Action.” See “The Hunting Ground” available on Netflix re sexual assault on American College Campuses.


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