Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Best Practices for University Faculty on Gender Equity for People of Color

Constance Wagner, In Search of Best Practices on Gender Equity for University Faculty: An Update" 
Norman Shachoy Symposium at Villanova Law School, 2019

This article updates the author’s earlier work on the search for gender equity among women faculty in the university setting in the United States. The author reflects on the fact that some of the literature in this area does not sufficiently address the challenges facing women of color. She seeks to fill the gap in her own research by referencing best practices discussed in three recent books on the professional lives of university faculty who are women of color. She argues that future work on best practices for achieving gender equity must address issues of intersectionality of race, gender, and class in order to develop effective tools for change in the university setting. This article was prepared for the 2019 Norman Shachoy Symposium at Villanova Law School, which focused on “Gender Equity in Law Schools”.

June 4, 2020 in Education, Gender, Law schools, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Legitimacy of Agency Implementation of Title IX

Samuel Bagenstos, Legitimacy and Agency Implementation of Title IX, 42, Harvard J. Law & Gender (2020)  

Because Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 involves a subject that remains highly controversial in our polity (sex roles and interactions among the sexes more generally), and because it targets a highly sensitive area (education), the administration of that statute by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has long drawn criticism. The critics have not merely noted disagreements with the legal and policy decisions of the agency, however. Rather, they have attacked the agency’s decisions for being illegitimate—for reflecting the agency’s improper imposition of value judgments on the statute. Three key applications of Title IX have drawn the most controversy in this regard: gender equity in intercollegiate athletics; transgender students’ rights; and sex-based harassment and assault on college campuses. This symposium essay argues that the critique is misplaced. One may agree or disagree with OCR’s applications of Title IX in these three key areas. But these applications are not illegitimate. To the contrary, they are implementation decisions made consistent with the longstanding “core” conception of discrimination — intentional disparate treatment. These decisions are inherently contestable, because even the “core” conception can be instantiated in many ways. But there are strong reasons to believe that OCR is best positioned to choose which instantiations to adopt. This essay thus shows how disputes over Title IX implicate broader questions of what discrimination means, as well as broader debates involving the legitimacy of the administrative state.

May 28, 2020 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

New Book: Presumed Incompetent II: Personal Narratives of Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia

Presumed Incompetent II:Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia

The courageous and inspiring personal narratives and empirical studies in Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia name formidable obstacles and systemic biases that all women faculty—from diverse intersectional and transnational identities and from tenure track, terminal contract, and administrative positions—encounter in their higher education careers. They provide practical, specific, and insightful guidance to fight back, prevail, and thrive in challenging work environments. This new volume comes at a crucial historical moment as the United States grapples with a resurgence of white supremacy and misogyny at the forefront of our social and political dialogues that continue to permeate the academic world.

Contributors: Marcia Allen Owens, Sarah Amira de la Garza, Sahar Aziz, Jacquelyn Bridgeman, Jamiella Brooks, Lolita Buckner Inniss, Kim Case, Donna Castaneda, Julia Chang, Meredith Clark, Meera Deo, Penelope Espinoza, Yvette Flores, Lynn Fujiwara, Jennifer Gomez, Angela Harris, Dorothy Hines, Rachelle Joplin, Jessica Lavariega Monforti, Cynthia Lee, Yessenia Manzo, Melissa Michelson, Susie E. Nam, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Jodi O’Brien, Amelia Ortega, Laura Padilla, Grace Park, Stacey Patton, Desdamona Rios, Melissa Michal Slocum, Nellie Tran, Rachel Tudor, Pamela Tywman Hoff, Adrien Wing, Jemimah Li Young

For the first volume, see Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

May 26, 2020 in Books, Education, Race, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Dept of Education Announces New Rules on Title IX for Campus Sexual Assault, Requiring a More Judicial Like Process and Granting More Rights to the Accused

Betsy DeVos Announces New Rules on Campus Sexual Assault, Offering More Rights to the Accused

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday released a sweeping new directive governing how schools must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, giving new rights to the accused and giving colleges a clear but controversial road map to navigating these highly charged investigations.

 

The final regulation bars universities from using a single official to investigate and judge complaints, a popular model, and instead creates a judicial-like process in which the accused has the right to cross-examine accusers and to a live hearing.

 

It also offers a narrow definition of sexual harassment, requiring that it be severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.

 
“Today we release a final rule that recognizes we can continue to combat sexual misconduct without abandoning our values,” DeVos told reporters. The regulation is scheduled to take effect in August.
 

Her approach has come under fire from women’s rights groups and Democrats, who said it would allow assailants and schools to escape responsibility and make college campuses less safe for women. It was welcomed by advocates for the accused, who say the existing procedures are unfairly biased against them.

 

Even before the regulation was released, opponents were vowing to challenge it in court, hoping to halt or at least stall the new rules.

 

“We will fight this rule in court, and we intend to win,” said Emily Martin, a vice president at the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group. She said the core of the challenge would be that the department was “arbitrary and capricious” and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the agency has ignored evidence showing that the rules would harm survivors of sexual violence.

May 6, 2020 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Institutional Perpetuation of Systemic Gender and Racial Discrimination by the Continued Use of Student Evaluations Despite Research Consensus on their Bias

Debra Austin, Leadership Lapse: Laundering Systemic Bias through Student Evaluations, Villanova L. Rev. (forthcoming)   

The use of the student evaluation of teaching (SET) for high stakes faculty employment decisions amounts to a lapse in leadership. A scholarly consensus has emerged that using SETs as the primary measure of teaching effectiveness in faculty review processes can systematically disadvantage faculty from marginalized groups. The growing body of evidence shows that women and minorities get lower ratings of their teaching than white men. Using biased evaluations allows colleges and universities to discriminate against faculty whose identities deviate from white male heteronormativity.

Despite the knowledge that empirical research demonstrates these instruments are biased, the academy has accepted them as credible. Bias in student evaluations can lead an institution to determine that a faculty member who differs from the straight white male stereotype is an inadequate teacher. Faculty with lower student ratings are penalized in the hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion processes.

This article summarizes empirical research demonstrating that student evaluations are biased against female faculty and faculty of color; describes the impact on student learning; details the influence on institutional culture of using student evaluations for assessing teaching quality for performance evaluations, compensation, promotion, and retention; and suggests recommendations for evaluating teaching effectiveness in fair and responsible ways. Law schools should lead the change in this discriminatory higher education practice because they are institutions dedicated to social justice and to training leaders who will drive social change in the legal system, government, business, media, and philanthropy.

April 17, 2020 in Education, Gender, Manliness, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Explaining the "Simple" Idea of College Sexual Consent Policies

Aya Gruber, The Complexity of College Consent, Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, Cognella, 2020

Teachers, parents, and administrators tell students that consent is “simple.” To be sure, every day, millions of people follow the directive to have only consensual sex with great success and have mutually wanted, unproblematic intimate contact. Law and policy, however, rarely intervene in easy cases. Consent standards intervene in the hard cases. College sexual consent policies delineate when sex between two competent adults of equal status, without force or threat, is a punishable offense. They determine what should happen when the accuser feels harmed but the accused believes he or she has not committed harm. They weigh in on default views of sex — whether people generally desire, are ambivalent toward, or fear sex. They guide decision makers on whom to believe in “he-said-she-said” cases. In short, consent is far from simple. This chapter, written for the book Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, unpacks the complex concept of consent in college codes. Its aim is taxonomical and explanatory: to categorize various consent formulations and clarify how they regulate behavior and resolve disputes. The first part of the chapter is a brief history of “ordinary” and affirmative consent standards in criminal law. The second turns to the concept of consent itself. There, I explore what it means to say that a sexual transaction between two people is consensual and whether consent relates to a state of mind, communication, or both. The third part examines the various formulations of consent in college codes, placing them on a scale from most to least regulatory. Finally, I discuss the complicated costs and benefits of affirmative consent.

March 18, 2020 in Education, Pop Culture, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Dangers of Gendered School Dress Codes to the Institutionalization of Sexual Consent Myths

Shawn Fields, Institutionalizing Consent Myths in Grade School, 72 Oklahoma L. Rev. (2020)

Scholars and advocates have long decried antiquated notions of consent in the criminal law of rape and sexual assault. Significant progress has been made to redefine consent in criminal codes and in our collective consciousness as freely given, informed, enthusiastic, explicit, revocable, and to be considered from the perspective of the consenting party. But despite this progress, the criminal justice apparatus continues to fixate on details irrelevant to the consent calculus such as the victim’s dress. This obsession with the victim’s clothing reflects a troubling willingness to imply consent or, alternatively, blame the victim for provocatively “asking for it.” Significant scholarship has demonstrated the corrosive impact of this fixation, resulting in a “credibility discount” of women making sexual violence allegations, the acquittal of defendants engaged in clearly criminal sexual conduct, and a concomitant reluctance of female victims of sexual violence to even engage with the criminal justice system.

None of the foregoing is new or particularly controversial. But while this unfortunate reality has been well examined, this Essay reflects upon a lesser explored, early root cause of the status quo: the hard wiring of consent myths in grade school through gendered dress codes and the gendered messaging these dress codes institutionalize about consent. Increasingly pervasive, increasingly sex obsessed dress codes feed narratives at an early age that girls are sexual objects who are responsible for the assaultive behavior of perpetrators and who “ask for” any unwanted sexual attention their dress may attract.

This Essay highlights the dangerous, highly sexualized justification often given by school administrators for gendered dress codes: a desire to create a “distraction-free learning environment” for boys. This messaging sexualizes underage girls, forces them to become hyper-cognizant about their physical identity, and signals a male entitlement to act inappropriately towards the female body for which the female will be punished. At root, these dress codes, and the justifications behind them, normalize and excuse sexually predatory behavior as a natural “distracted” reaction while blaming the victim for provoking the unwanted behavior. This institutionalization – which continues to grow – naturally feeds corrosive narratives that persist in criminal sexual assault adjudications, including implied consent, the requirement of a “perfect victim,” and the myth of the “unstoppable male.”

February 19, 2020 in Education, Gender, Masculinities, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 3, 2020

Re-Affirming the Value of the Sports Exception to Title IX's General Non-Discrimination Rule

Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Michael J. Joyner & Donna Lopiano, "Re-Affirming the Value of the Sports Exception to Title IX’s General Non-Discrimination Rule, Duke J. Gender Law & Policy (forthcoming) 

Title IX expresses society’s commitment to sex equality in educational settings. The structure of the statute’s regulatory scheme makes clear that the goal is sex equality, not sex neutrality. Notwithstanding the general preference for sex neutral measures, the sports exception to Title IX’s general nondiscrimination rule has long been one of the statute’s most popular features. The challenge in the beginning of the Title IX era was to get educational institutions to conceive of and equally to support females as athletes. We continue to fight for equal support, but as Title IX concludes its first semi-centennial, we no longer struggle as we did in the beginning with the basic concept of females as athletes, or of female sport as a high value social good. 

The challenge as we move into Title IX’s second semi-centennial is to get institutions to address the remaining disparities in their treatment of female athletes and female sport at the same time as we enter a new era in which we are being asked to imagine that “female” includes individuals of both sexes so long as they identify as women and girls. This ask reflects the intellectual choice to conceive of sex as a social construct rather than as a fact of biology tied to reproduction, and also the strategic choice of trans rights advocates to work toward law reform that would disallow any distinctions on the basis of sex. The problem is that female sport is by design and for good reasons a reproductive sex classification. These reasons have nothing to do with transphobia and everything to do with the performance gap that emerges from the onset of male puberty. Whether one is trans or not, if one is in sport and cares about sex equality, this physical phenomenon is undeniably relevant. Changing how we define “female” so that it includes individuals of both sexes, and then disallowing any distinctions among them on the basis of sex, is by definition and in effect a rejection of Title IX’s equality goals. Those who push for these changes are committed to sex neutrality, not sex equality.

The goals of this paper are to provide the legal, factual, and normative background necessary to evaluate the merits of this challenge to the sports exception to Title IX’s general nondiscrimination rule, and then to present the case for re-affirming the exception in a form that is appropriate for this next period of its history. It proceeds in three parts: Part I describes the legal history of Title IX’s sports exception, its goals, and the current state of the legal doctrine. Part II explains its scientific basis and rationale. Part III sets out the best case for and against affirming the commitment to sex equality in education-based sport, and then presents our argument for resolving the collision of interests at issue. The paper concludes that the original Title IX commitment to sex equality continues to do important work and should not to be abandoned, including in the sports space where equality requires not only recognizing but also celebrating physical sex differences. Including trans people within this design is difficult by definition, but policymakers should accept the challenge.

February 3, 2020 in Education, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

VA Passes Bill to Provide Menstrual Products in Schools

Virginia Senate Passes Bill for Schools to Provide Menstrual Products

The Virginia Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday requiring public schools to include free menstrual products in their bathrooms. 

 

Senate Bill 232 applies to schools that educate fifth-to-12th graders. According to the Virginia Department of Education, this encompasses 132 school districts and almost over 630,000 female students. 

 

"I would like to see that the supplies are available, just like other supplies that we keep in the bathroom," said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, the legislation's chief patron.

 

An earlier version of the bill applied the stipulation to the aforementioned schools where at least 40% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch. 

 

Boysko introduced the bill to make it more convenient for students to access menstrual products and help them avoid accidents.

 

"This is a necessity and girls can't carry out their school day without it," Boysko said. "Some girls are missing school time and end up going home and missing classes because of these kinds of challenges."

 

According to Boysko, school budgets currently cover menstrual product expenses, but they are often kept in the nurse's office, making it inconvenient for students. 

 

January 29, 2020 in Education, Healthcare, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Harms and Remedies for Young Women in the #MeToo Era

Charisa Kiyo Smith, #WhoAmI: Harm & Remedy for Youth of the #MeToo Era, 23 U. Penn. J. Law & Soc. Change (forthcoming)

Legal approaches to sexual and gender-based harms between minors are both ineffective and under-examined. Despite the #MeToo movement, the flashpoint confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh involving alleged high school peer sexual assault, and heightened public awareness, fundamental issues regarding individuals under age 18 remain ignored, over-simplified, or misunderstood. While the fields of children’s rights, family law, and criminal justice consistently wrestle with the continuum of human maturity and capacity in setting legal boundaries and rules, under-theorizing the #MeToo matter for youth will continue to perpetuate harm, toxic masculinity, and complicity in rape culture.

This article bridges the gap between empirical reality and legal response in a crisis that cannot be understated. As many as 81% of students between grades 8 and 11 report experiencing school sexual harassment, and girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault. These figures are undoubtedly low as much victimization goes unreported, including among males, LGBTQI populations, communities of color, and adults. Engaging the consciousness of the #MeToo movement — one of newfound courage and tenacity among survivors — this article calls for a paradigm shift while deconstructing, reimagining, and reorganizing the problematic legal landscape regarding sexual and gender-based harms between youth.

This article asserts that status quo responses miss concerns unique to minors and simultaneously over-criminalize, infantilize, and neglect youth. At best, the status quo approach fails to address underlying causes of rape culture and other harms. At worst, it deprives survivors of true remedies and recourse while unfairly branding children with life-long punishment. Sexting among youth is a pervasive habit that presents an archetypal case study. Myriad sexting scenarios can lead to a blunt legal response that fails to recognize the inaccuracy of victim-offender binaries in the digital age.

After critiquing and deconstructing the existing criminal law approach, this article recommends a paradigm shift that more aptly situates the “Me” in #MeToo concerning minors. Creating an informed, interdisciplinary typology of instances of sexual and gender-based harm among youth, this article ultimately proposes a tiered response system defaulting to public health education and harm-reduction, which only resorts to criminal legal intervention in the most severe situations. Although egregious events may require legal redress, a large portion of incidents involve issues beyond the narrow scope of law and impact youth who seek nonlegal or farther-reaching remedies.

January 7, 2020 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Elusive Goal of Gender Equity in Law School Enrollment

Deborah Jones Merritt & Kyle P. McEntee, Gender Equity in Law School Enrollment: An Elusive Goal, Journal of Legal Education (forthcoming)

Women finally make up more than half of law students nationwide, but that milestone masks significant gender inequities in law school enrollment. Women constitute an even larger percentage of the potential applicant pool: for almost two decades, they have earned more than 57% of all college degrees. As we show in this article, women are less likely than men to apply to law school — or to be admitted if they do apply. Equally troubling, women attend less prestigious law schools than men. The law schools that open the most employment doors for their graduates enroll significantly fewer women than schools with worse job outcomes and weaker access to the legal profession.

We explore here the factors that may contribute to this ongoing gender gap in law school attendance. We also propose several strategies for closing the gap. Enrollment equity alone will not put women on an equal footing with men; a sizable literature probes gender biases that pervade the law school environment. Recognizing and addressing the enrollment gap in legal education, however, is an essential first step toward improving the representation of women throughout the legal profession.

November 1, 2019 in Education, Gender, Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Placing Elizabeth Warren's Experience of Pregnancy Discrimination in Historical Context

Joanna Grossman, The Pregnant Pause: Placing Elizabeth Warren's Experience of Pregnancy Discrimination in Historical ContextVerdict

Elizabeth Warren reported that her contract as a teacher was not renewed when she was visibly pregnant at the end of her first year. The crowd went wild—not with sympathy for her plight, but with accusatory disbelief. Why would she get fired just for being pregnant? Because that’s what happened to pregnant women until 1978, when pregnancy discrimination became unlawful. Warren’s pregnancy was in 1971. But the public’s reaction to Warren’s report about her experience suggests that this country’s long history of legal and widespread pregnancy discrimination may need to be excavated. After all, if we don’t believe that women were discriminated against in an era in which such behavior was overt and commonplace, what is the likelihood that we will believe women who continue to experience discrimination today? We have come a long way, but there is still much work to be done.***

 

Pregnant women were subject to a particular set of whims. The idea of pregnant women doing paid work triggered a few common reactions, ranging from a paternalistic desire to protect them from the perils and demands of paid labor, to stereotypes about their physical capacity or willingness to service the “ideal worker” norm, to concerns about “lewdness” because pregnancy resulted from sex. These reasons, though varied, all led to the same outcome: the partial or full exclusion of pregnant women from the workforce. Actual and potential pregnancy was the justification for innumerable laws and policies that disadvantaged working women.***

 

In the first half of the twentieth century, many states imposed special limits on working women, most designed to protect and preserve women’s reproductive function. The Supreme Court upheld such a law in Muller v. Oregon (1908), permitting the state of Oregon to restrict the number of hours women, but not men, could work per day in a factory or laundry, notwithstanding having struck down a New York law that restricted the hours of all bakery employees under the now-defunct theory of economic substantive due process. Workers in general had a constitutional right to negotiate the terms of the labor, but women could be subject to special “protection” required by “her physical structure and a proper discharge of her maternal functions.” A brief filed in that case recited four ways in which a long work day was incompatible with womanhood: “(a) the physical organization of women, (b) her maternal functions, (c) the rearing and education of the children, (d) the maintenance of the home–are all so important and so far reaching that the need for such reduction need hardly be discussed.”***

 

At the height of the second wave women’s rights movement, pregnant women were in dire straits. There was only one shining light during the first half of the 1970s. During the same year it rejected an equal protection-based right against pregnancy discrimination in Geduldig, the Supreme Court invalidated aspects of public school mandatory leave policies for pregnant teachers. At issue in Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur were policies from two school districts forcing pregnant teachers to leave work early in their pregnancies. One school district also forced teachers to wait three months after childbirth before returning to work, regardless of their individual condition or capacity. The Court invalidated both rules under the Due Process Clause, which is the home for privacy-based rights related to reproduction—contraception, abortion, and childrearing. The Court’s concern was not that pregnant women were being singled out for adverse treatment, but that they were presumed to be incapable of work based on their condition without regard for their individual capacity. The Court thought it arbitrary that a pregnant woman who was not disabled by pregnancy would have to leave her job nonetheless just because other pregnant women might have been disabled at the same point in pregnancy. The oral arguments in that case revealed some of the bizarre notions that animated these rules. The lawyer for one of the districts explained that pregnant teachers had to be removed from the classroom because their swollen bellies would be confusing for the students, who might think their teacher had “swallowed a watermelon.” During the same term, the Court invalidated Utah’s unemployment compensation rules that prohibited a pregnant woman from collecting benefits because of presumed incapacity. These rulings ushered in an anti-stereotyping principle that meant it was fine to fire pregnant women who actually had some level of incapacity due to pregnancy or childbirth, but unacceptable to presume their incapacity simply from the fact of their condition.

 

October 23, 2019 in Constitutional, Education, Equal Employment, Family, Legal History, Pregnancy, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

SororityToo: Using Systems Change Theory to Reform High-Risk Greek Life

Tanya Cooper, #SororityToo, Michigan State L. Rev. (forthcoming)

Sexual violence is an epidemic affecting millions of students, and those who participate in collegiate Greek life are especially vulnerable. As social societies bent on secrecy, Greek life hides violence in its midst. Laws and campus policies when accessed offer little help to victims, and often secondarily traumatize them. Publicized scandals on campus and social media campaigns, however, have raised awareness and sparked public outrage against the widespread problem of sexual violence and high-risk Greek life. Systems change theory offers a useful framework to reform high-risk Greek life from many angles: education, reporting, litigation, and collective action of its system actors. Effective strategies exist to create safer Greek organizations for students but without reform, we will continue to jeopardize the education and health of millions of students.

October 23, 2019 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Book Review: The Transformation of Title IX and the Success of the Administrative State

Samuel Bagenstos, This is What Democracy Looks Like: Title IX and the Legitimacy of the Administrative State, Michigan Law Review, Vol. 118, No. 6, 2020

We are, once again, in the middle of a battle over the legitimacy of the administrative state. An increasingly vocal band of scholars criticizes administrative agencies as unaccountable, elitist, captured, and implementing bad policy. The more populist elements of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric have taken this critique to a broader audience, to great political effect. Though the picture is complex, the Roberts Court has appeared sympathetic to important aspects of the critique. Agencies enforcing civil rights laws — and particularly the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) — have been a principal target of the critics of the administrative state.

With The Transformation of Title IX, R. Shep Melnick steps into this fight — and he takes the side of those who find OCR’s actions illegitimate. Melnick focuses particularly on three especially controversial contexts in which the courts and OCR have applied the statute: intercollegiate athletics, campus sexual harassment and assault, and the treatment of transgender students in elementary and secondary schools. He argues that OCR and the courts have, through a process of “institutional leapfrogging,” steadily adopted more and more intrusive rules governing educational entities. He contends that these rules are highly contestable and neither specifically required by the statutory text nor envisioned by the statute’s drafters. But, he argues, the leapfrogging process — in which the agency pushes forward, then the courts go a bit farther than the agency, then the agency goes even a bit farther, and so on — has enabled these massive innovations in the law to fly under the radar and evade democratic checks or debate.

This piece reviews The Transformation of Title IX. The book offers an important take on some issues of high public salience. It reflects a detailed immersion in the operations of OCR, as well as a strong understanding of the legal-doctrinal issues. But the book’s thesis is fundamentally misguided. OCR has not subverted or evaded democracy. Rather, the agency has served as a catalyst for democratic debate, a forum in which that debate has played out, and an implementer of the will of the people. The Title IX experience rather supports the claim made by some scholars that administrative agencies can be a key locus of democratic deliberation over the scope of basic rights.

October 1, 2019 in Books, Education, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

New Books: Stanford Victim from the Brock Turner Case Tells Her Story

NPR, Chanel Miller Says "Know my Name" as She Reflects on her Assault by Brock Turner

Her name is Chanel Miller.

 

For four years, she has been known publicly as Emily Doe, "an unconscious woman" or simply "Brock Turner's victim." In her memoir Know My Name, she wants to set the record straight: "I am a victim, I have no qualms with this word, only with the idea that it is all that I am," she writes. "However, I am not Brock Turner's victim. I am not his anything."

 

In 2015, Miller was sexually assaulted by Turner on Stanford University's campus. Two Swedish graduate students were passing by on bikes and chased Turner off an unconscious Miller. Turner was convicted of three felonies but served only three months of a six-month sentence in county jail. The case became notorious for its illustration of the race and wealth gap in sentencing, and for the stinging eloquence of Miller's victim statement, which went instantly viral when it was published by BuzzFeed.

 

Know My Name is a devastating, immersive memoir of her sexual assault and its aftermath. We live with Miller minute by minute, thinking and feeling with her. At points, particularly during the account of her testimony, it is hard to read it and breathe at the same time.

"Know My Name" A Sexual Assault Survivor Tells the World

“Know My Name” is an act of reclamation. On every page, Miller unflattens herself, returning from Victim or Emily Doe to Chanel, a beloved daughter and sister, whose mother emigrated from China to learn English and become a writer and whose father is a therapist; a girl who was so shy that, in an elementary school play about a safari, she played the grass. Miller reads “Rumi, Woolf, Didion, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Banana Yoshimoto, Miranda July, Chang-rae Lee, Carlos Bulosan.” She rides her bike “through the Baylands … across crunchy salt and pickleweed.” She fosters elderly rescue dogs with names like Butch and Remy and Squid. She rages against a form that identifies “victim’s race” as white. “Never in my life have I checked only white. You cannot note my whiteness without acknowledging I am equal parts Chinese.”

 

“Know My Name” is one woman’s story. But it’s also every woman’s story — the story of a world whose institutions are built to protect men; a world where sexual objectification is ubiquitous and the threat of sexual violence is constant. Before Turner assaulted her, Miller had already survived one act of deadly misogyny near her college, the University of California at Santa Barbara, when Elliot Rodger, a privileged young man enraged that he’d never had a girlfriend, went on a spree and killed six people.

 

After the assault, Miller enrolls in art school in Rhode Island. But the East Coast proves no safer. Walking back from class, “I passed three men sitting on a car who fastened their eyes on my legs, clicked their tongues and smacked their lips, performing the sounds and hand gestures one might use if attempting to summon a cat. … I trained myself to tuck my head down, avoiding eye contact, feigning invisibility.”

 

Miller takes us through the trial, her steadfast, supportive attorney, the humiliation of testifying, her rage when Judge Aaron Persky sentences Turner to just six months in county jail and probation, because a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on the onetime Olympic hopeful. She quotes Turner’s father’s complaints that “these verdicts have broken and shattered” his son, who can no longer enjoy the rib-eye steaks he once loved. Turner himself says that he wants to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity.” “He had lived shielded under a roof where the verdict was never accepted, where he would never be held accountable,” Miller writes.

 

And then there was Stanford. “Their apathy, their lack of apology I could live with, but what troubled me most was their failure to ask the single most important question: How do we ensure this does not happen again?

 

Eventually, there’s a hint of justice, a tiny rebalancing of the scales. Judge Persky is recalledTurner’s appeal is denied. Miller writes an incandescent, awesomely angry victim impact statement that blazes across the internet, beginning, “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that is why we’re here.” While Turner registers as a sex offender, Miller signs a book contract. She texts her mother a picture of herself in New York City, enjoying a celebratory dessert of grilled peaches. Her mother texts back, “You are mommy’s dream.”

September 26, 2019 in Books, Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 9, 2019

National Women's Law Center Report Shows DC Dress Codes Unfairly Target Black Girls

DC School Dress Codes Unfairly Target Black Girls, Students Say

School dress codes are often enforced in uneven ways, and black girls are disproportionately targeted, students from Washington, D.C., said in a report last year from the National Women’s Law Center. Now, some of those students are beginning to speak up — organizing walkouts, lunchtime protests and meetings with administrators to call out dress codes they see as unfair.

 

In a new report released Wednesday, the National Women’s Law Center highlighted some of these recent shifts and rated D.C. public and charter high schools based on the strictness of their dress code policies.

 

The researchers found that, among 29 D.C. schools, majority-black high schools on average had more dress code restrictions than other high schools. And charter schools in the District, on average, had more than twice the number of dress code restrictions than traditional public schools in the 2018-2019 school year.

 

“Especially in this Me Too movement that we’re in, schools shouldn’t be teaching students that it’s okay to scrutinize girls’ bodies ... or make them feel like they have to cover up or feel less than,” said Nia Evans, author and lead researcher of the report.

September 9, 2019 in Education, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Book by Attorney, "Nobody's Victim" on Cases Challenging Title IX Sexual Violence and Revenge Porn

The Lily, Wash. Post, Carrie Goldberg's New Memoir "Nobody's Victim": How Schools Fail Black Girls

The following is an excerpt from attorney Carrie Goldberg’s memoir, “Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls,” which comes out Aug. 13. In 2014, Goldberg made a name for herself representing victims of sexual violence — specifically in cases of revenge porn. Her law firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, specializes in handling cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and blackmail.

 

This excerpt appears in Chapter 4, “Girls’ Lives Matter,” in which Goldberg describes her work with three clients — all middle-school-aged girls of color from New York City. In the chapter, she describes the Title IX complaint she filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on behalf of Vanessa, who alleged a classmate sexually assaulted her when she was 13.

 

“When I opened my firm, the idea of representing clients who were still in middle school wasn’t even on my radar,” Goldberg writes. “But by 2018, I’d filed seven Title IX complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, including five on behalf of middle and high school students who were sexually violated by their peers, then shamed and blamed by the school officials who were supposed to be protecting them.”

 

In this excerpt, Goldberg outlines the stories of two other clients and discusses a larger system of bias against black girls and women who report sexual assault.

August 15, 2019 in Books, Education, Media, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Feminist Law Professors Critique Title IX and Domestic Violence Law

Chronicle, The Revolt of the Feminist Law Professors

 In the fall of 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued informal, non-binding guidance on how colleges should treat claims of sexual assault and harassment in a document now referred to as the Dear Colleague letter. It was accompanied by public claims of an ongoing crisis of sexual violence on universities made by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. In 2014, Gersen and three of her colleagues — Elizabeth Bartholet, Janet Halley, and Nancy Gertner — led a contingent of their peers in calling out the system of investigation and adjudication that emerged during the Obama years as “so unfair as to be truly shocking.” The four were joined by 24 of their Harvard Law colleagues in an open letter published in The Boston Globe decrying Obama’s Title IX recommendations as “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.”

 

In a statement called “Fairness for All Students Under Title IX,”  jointly authored with Halley, Bartholet, and Gertner, Gersen noted that at many colleges, investigators are trained to start by believing the complainant. Many schools would “improperly house the functions of investigation and adjudication” in the same office, with “strong incentives” to keep the schools in the Office for Civil Rights’ “good graces.” “Some schools,” they wrote, “allow appeals only on very narrow grounds such as new evidence or procedural error, providing no meaningful check on the initial decisionmaker.” The evidentiary threshold required was the lowest one, the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning anything greater than 50 percent certainty should yield a finding of wrongdoing. 

August 13, 2019 in Courts, Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

American Law Institute's Reasonably Speaking Podcast on Responding to Sexual Assault Allegations on Campus

Responding to Sexual Assault Allegations on Campus

Suzanne Goldberg, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and Executive Vice President for University Life at Columbia University, and Gil Sparks, member and past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware, discuss what schools are doing to implement procedures that are both effective and fair for those who have suffered from such misconduct and for those accused.

July 18, 2019 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

High School Student Challenges Rule Prohibiting Girls from Wearing Pants at Graduation

Her School Prohibited Girls From Wearing Pants at Graduation. So She Fought Back.

It was the principle of it all, the fact that it was 2019 and women had been wearing pants for a century.

 

“I didn’t think that was very acceptable,” Kozak told The Washington Post.

 

She knew female students before her had found the policy problematic and that individual exceptions had been made for those who felt strongly enough about the issue to formally ask for permission from administrators to put on pants (though they still had to roll the pant legs up, so their ankles would appear bare — like those wearing dresses.)

 

“I felt the female students were being disproportionately burdened by going through this extra process that their male counterparts did not have to go though,” she said. “And I did not think that was fair or right."

 

But nobody had felt powerful enough to dismantle the policy altogether. Maybe, she thought, it was time to try.*** 

 

So weeks later, on a school night in mid-April, Kozak took her fight to the school board.

 

She hadn’t had time to get on the agenda, so she typed up a short speech in Google Docs and planned to present it during public comment at the end of the meeting. For two hours, she waited through budget conversations and introductions of the new superintendent, through other student presentations and mundane crosstalk.*** 

 

Kozak invoked the American Civil Liberties Union and its recent legal victory against a public charter school in North Carolina, which had defended its no-pants policy for young girls — and lost.

May 16, 2019 in Constitutional, Education | Permalink | Comments (0)