Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

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)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

US Women's Soccer Team Sues for Gender Discrimination

US Women's Soccer Team Sues US Soccer for Gender Discrimination

Twenty-eight members of the world champion United States women’s soccer team significantly escalated their long-running fight with the country’s soccer federation over pay equity and working conditions, filing a gender discrimination lawsuit on Friday.

 

The suit, in United States District Court in Los Angeles, comes only three months before the team will begin defense of its Women’s World Cup title at this summer’s tournament in France. In their filing and a statement released by the team, the 28 players described “institutionalized gender discrimination” that they say has existed for years.

 

The discrimination, the athletes said, affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches.***

 

The bulk of the suit mirrors many of the issues raised in a wage discrimination complaint filed by five United States players with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. Frustrated by a lack of progress on that complaint after nearly three years of inaction, the players received permission from the federal agency in February to sue instead. (One of the players on the original complaint, the former goalkeeper Hope Solo, filed her own gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in August.)

 

The suit offers a new forum but also new hurdles. The players, represented by Jeffrey Kessler, who has been involved in labor fights in nearly every major American sport, will have to prove not only that their team and the men’s squad do the same work, but also overcome questions about the differences in their pay structures and their negotiated collective bargaining agreements. And the C.B.A. has already left them without one bit of leverage: The players cannot strike to press their case at least until it expires at the end of 2021.

 

But to experts in gender discrimination and Title IX cases, the argument they are making is familiar.

 

“These are the same kinds of arguments and claims that we still see at every level of education for women and girls, from K through 12 to college,” said Neena Chaudhry, the general counsel of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington. “It’s unfortunately a sad continuation of the way that women and girls in sports are treated in the U.S.”

March 14, 2019 in Education, Equal Employment, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Race and the History of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Movement: The Power of African-American Women Voters in School Suffrage

Randolph Hollingsworth, Power of African-American Women Voters in Lexington's School Suffrage, 1895-1902: Race and the History of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Movement, 

Women suffragists in the U.S. included partial suffrage through participation in school-related elections as one of their strategies to reach full citizenship rights. Kentucky had already pointed the way for this strategy when in 1838 a statewide law passed protecting the right of female taxpaying heads-of-households in rural areas to vote on matters related to the new common school system. The leaders of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) sought to build on this precedent during the 1890 Kentucky constitutional convention that offered the possibility of the legislature to grant women the right to vote. When the charters of cities of the second-class (i.e., Lexington, Covington and Newport) were up for revision in 1894, the General Assembly included what the KERA lobbyists were hoping for – the right for women in second-class cities to vote on school-related issues. By then, women in fifteen other states had successfully lobbied for legislation for partial suffrage (or full suffrage in some Western territories and states). This presentation will chronicle the evolution of school suffrage laws of Kentucky, focusing on the 1901 school board election in Lexington and the revocation of school suffrage in 1902. That election cycle evidenced a large percentage of African-American women whose registration totals favored the Republican Party. However, only half of the registrants ended up casting a vote – leading to the election of a Democratic Party ticket that year. The unusual numbers of black women voters threatened the racially conservative norm, and in January 1902, the Kentucky legislature repealed the partial suffrage law. The political backlash over the racial disproportionality of women voters in this election exposed the Kentucky partisan feuds of the time, however the issue of race control was at the core of the reasoning for revoking even this limited attempt at partial suffrage in Kentucky. This paper argues that race mattered more than partisan politics, class or social standing in determining the outcome of suffrage laws for women in Kentucky.

February 22, 2019 in Education, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Critiques of the Department of Education's Proposed Rulemaking for Title IX

Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Dog Whistles and Beachheads: The Trump Administration, Sexual Violence & Student Discipline in Education, Wake Forest L. Rev., forthcoming  

On November 29, 2018, the Trump administration’s Department of Education (ED), under the leadership of Secretary Betsy DeVos, published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing expansive changes to ED’s regulations under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). These changes focus on Title IX’s prohibition of sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence as a severe form of sexual harassment. The NPRM, among a very long list of other starkly unequal proposals, proposes to lift the historical expectation that schools will use a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof in their internal sexual harassment investigations. Instead, the NPRM proposes a rule that would instead push schools to adopt a clear and convincing evidence (C&C) standard for not only sexual harassment but other forms of discriminatory harassment.

In its first part, this article will map the ways in which the NPRM’s attempt to replace the historically-used civil rights preponderance standard with the quasi-criminal C&C evidence standard attempts to establish a beachhead in a larger and longer war against civil rights and equal educational opportunity. This broad attack on civil rights in education will undermine the rights of not only sexual harassment victims, but all discriminatory harassment victims, especially women students of color and those in other intersectional populations (e.g. girls with disabilities) who are disproportionately vulnerable to multiple forms of discriminatory harassment. ED’s permission to adopt an inappropriate standard for sexual harassment will open the door for schools to do the same for other forms of discriminatory harassment, resulting in fewer protections from all discriminatory harassment, not just sexual harassment, and at precisely a time, post-2016 election, when such harassment is skyrocketing.

The article next demonstrates how the due process dog whistle is a key weapon in the establishment of that beachhead. Specifically, it will show that although ED claims to have issued the NPRM to enhance accused students of color’s due process rights and promote racial justice, the NPRM actually acts as a part of a campaign by a number of coordinated groups, many of which are men’s rights groups and/or funded by foundations like the Koch Foundation, to undermine the rights of not only harassment victims but also accused students who are overwhelmingly African American. As a dog whistle, it seeks to convince the public that dismantling Title IX protections for sexual harassment victims will better protect students of color’s due process rights, while distracting attention from Trump officials’ quiet dismantling of Obama-era efforts to stop disproportionate school discipline of Black students.

The final part will then discuss the potential and actual use of the “commenting power” to defend Title IX and its intended beneficiaries (i.e., sexual harassment victims) — as well as the classes protected by civil rights laws that can be attacked via an anti-Title IX beachhead. This section will use the results of a June-September 2017 ED comment call, asking for public “input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification,” to show the high level of democratic support for Title IX, as well as the undemocratic nature of agency actions such as the NPRM. It will also discuss the important implications of this resistance strategy for the NPRM as well as the Administrative Procedure Act, which is fundamentally concerned with reining in anti-democratic impulses by non-elected officials.

February 21, 2019 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Redressing the Sexual Harassment in Elementary, Middle, and High Schools

Ann McGinley, Schools as Training Grounds for Harassment, University of Chicago Legal Forum, Forthcoming

This article analyzes elementary, middle, and high schools' role in permitting and encouraging peer sex- and gender-based harassment of children and the law's role in failing to hold schools accountable for their negligent and intentional behavior in sanctioning it. Part I discusses the evidence of rampant peer harassment in schools. Part II analyzes the problem through the lens of masculinities theory. Part III examines court cases and decisions of the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education ("OCR"), and demonstrates that the proposed Title IX regulations would apply the strict court standards to OCR complaints, thereby making remedying of school-based harassment virtually impossible. Part IV proposes new legal standards for the courts and argues that the court standards should be more similar to those applied historically by the OCR. It also suggests possible legislative reform. The article concludes that when schools ignore their responsibilities to prevent and remedy peer sex- and gender-based harassment they become important training grounds for future harassers, a role that the #MeToo Movement cannot tolerate. 

February 19, 2019 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Critique of the Trump Administration's Proposed Standard of Evidence for Campus Title IX Proceedings

William Kidder, (En)forcing a Foolish Consistency?: A Critique and Comparative Analysis of the Trump Administration’s Proposed Standard of Evidence Regulation for Campus Title IX Proceedings 

Prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment are major challenges at U.S. colleges and universities today. In recent years a vigorous law and policy debate emerged within the higher education community about Title IX and whether the “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing” evidence represents the more appropriate standard of evidence in campus sexual violence and sexual harassment disciplinary procedures. During the Obama administration the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education issued a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter recognizing that the preponderance of evidence standard was the appropriate standard for Title IX investigations. The Trump administration's Office for Civil Rights rescinded this earlier guidance and in November 2018 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding Title IX regulations. The new proposed regulation reflects a “you can have more discretion, if you rachet up” policy: a college can only use the preponderance of evidence standard if it adopts that same standard across-the-board in similarly serious non-Title IX student misconduct cases and in both Title IX and non-Title IX cases where the accused/respondent is a faculty member or employee. If a campus chooses to adopt the clear and convincing evidence standard in Title IX cases, the proposed regulation would not restrict campus discretion in non-Title IX student cases.

While the relationship between the burden of proof and outcomes is complicated and dynamic, the main tendency if campuses were to shift to the clear and convincing evidence standard in Title IX adjudications would likely be a net decrease in accuracy because the rise in “false negative” errors (student or employee commits sexual misconduct but is found not responsible) would outnumber the corresponding decrease in “false positive” errors. By implication, a shift to the clear and convincing standard would also make it more difficult – other things being equal – for campuses to impose disciplinary accountability in cases of serial sexual misconduct and serial sexual harassment.

This article also aims to inform the debate about Title IX and faculty and student disciplinary cases by objectively identifying whether the preponderance of evidence or clear and convincing evidence standard is used in most domains that are reasonably analogous to faculty Title IX-related misconduct proceedings (a more stringent test than looking only at student-to-student Title IX cases). This review includes U.S. federal civil rights adjudications, faculty research misconduct cases linked to federal research grants, civil anti-fraud proceedings, attorney debarment/discipline cases and physician misconduct/license cases. In a large majority of these areas, preponderance of evidence is used as the standard of evidence. This pattern highlights concerns about the Office for Civil Rights selectively referencing cases that support its proposed Title IX regulation and questionable claims about the clear and convincing evidence standard and stigma. This article also raises questions, depending on how the notice-and-comment process unfolds, about the proposed Title IX regulation and the Administrative Procedure Act.

February 18, 2019 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Integrating Yale's Fraternities as a Way to Disrupt Gendered Power of Both Privilege and Sexual Misconduct

I'm interviewed in this story, with some thoughts on both gendered power and systemic remedies.

NPR, Here & Now, Female Yale Students File Suit Alleging School Turned "Blind Eye" to Fraternity Sexual Misconduct

Three female students are suing Yale University and nine off-campus fraternities there, arguing the fraternities create a hostile environment for women and that Yale is "turning a blind eye" to sexual misconduct.***

 

Among its claims, the lawsuit argues Yale is violating Title IX, the law banning sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The plaintiffs want the fraternities to allow women to join — and to gain access to fraternities' powerful alumni networks.

 

In addition to allowing women into fraternities, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are asking Yale to create more oversight of the off-campus fraternities, including appointing "sober monitors" to watch alcohol consumption at parties and to intervene in cases of sexual harassment or assault.

 

"I think schools have tried to address the situation by distancing themselves from fraternities, having them go off campus," says University of Akron law professor Tracy Thomas. "This is actually asking for the opposite. Some of the relief is asking for Yale to create a Greek council and to create more oversight, bouncers at the fraternity parties, and so that may change how schools have been trying to deal with the issue."

Listen for the full story.

February 18, 2019 in Education, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Harvard University Policy Sanctions Students Who Join Single-Gender Group

Harvard Cracks Down on All-Male Clubs. But It's Women's Groups That Have Vanished.

Just over a year ago, Harvard University's leaders made an announcement that they hoped would be the final word, for the time being, in a lengthy debate over the future of campus social life.

 

Starting with the freshman class in 2017, any student who joined a single-gender social group — like one of the university's exclusive final clubs, or a fraternity or sorority — would face restrictions. Members wouldn't be able to hold leadership positions on campus, serve as captains of athletic teams, or receive Harvard's endorsement for postgraduate scholarships like the Rhodes and the Marshall. The groups could avoid the sanctions only if they went coed.

 

Technically, the policy had been unveiled in May 2016. But after 18 months of contentious conversations, Harvard's governing board finally voted to approve the restrictions. The board's action would, in theory, institute the policy beyond the tenure of Drew Gilpin Faust, the president at the time, who stepped down this summer.

 

To some observers, the demise of exclusionary social groups on college campuses makes a lot of sense. As student populations diversify, administrators are growing more aware of the need to foster inclusive environments, not ones segregated by gender and class. At Harvard, the men's final clubs in particular seem like vestiges of a university from an earlier era, when the student body was whiter and wealthier than it is today.

 

So on the surface, it would be easy to dismiss the lawsuits filed against Harvard by Greek organizations last month as a last-gasp effort. Privileged people are digging in their heels in the face of threats to their privilege, the argument goes. The suits are accompanied by a national campaign and petition, with an extensive website that purports to tell "the Truth" about single-gender social organizations. Some sorority chapters at other colleges have encouraged members and alumni to sign on.

 

But the sorority members who have become the loudest voice in favor of the lawsuits argue that their fight isn't about protecting privilege at all. It's about protecting women.

 

Harvard officials have said their crackdown on social groups was designed to do just that. In their view, all-male final clubs encourage misogynistic behaviors and create problematic environments for women. The solution? To discourage the behavior at the source.

For a related story, see Women Students Sue Yale University and Fraternities Seeking Gender Integration

February 14, 2019 in Education, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Women Students Sue Yale University and Fraternities Seeking Gender Integration

Three women students have sued Yale University and Yale Fraternities claiming a hostile environment in violation of Title IX from the sexualized, assaulting environment of the fraternities, and unequal educational opportunity in violation of Title IX for the perpetuation of privilege and opportunity available to men in fraternities.  Both addressing the eradication of gendered power that systemically reinforces women's inferiority.  The women also bring ancillary contract and unfair trade claims, seeking a legal vehicle for expressing the disappointment of being lured into a top university, only to find a toxic gender social culture reminiscent of the the 1950s.

The complaint is here: McNeil v. Yale University (D. Conn.) (filed 2/12/19).

Para. 5.  Yale is a microcosm of the ongoing epidemic of sexual harassment and assault at all-male fraternities. For decades, social science research has warned that fraternities perpetuate and normalize forms of gender discrimination and sexual violence. Studies have found that fraternity brothers commit sexual assault at three times the rate of other male college students. Brothers are also reportedly more likely to use alcohol to obtain sex, more likely to be involved in gang rapes, more likely to endorse traditional gender roles, and more likely to espouse rape myths. Nevertheless, fraternities remain powerful institutions. Colleges and universities depend on fraternities to, among other things, house students, serve as social venues, and yield an ever replenishing source of alumni donors.

The relief demanded is not the elimination of the fraternities but rather gender integration, allowing women to join fraternities, and greater integration with and oversight by the university.  For support for this remedial outcome, see Justice Ginsburg's majority opinion in the Virginia Military Institute case, United States v. Virginia (1996).

The women spoke on CBS News, video here.

Procedural complications from the lawsuit are likely due to the Supreme Court's decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes (2011) hindering class actions in gender discrimination cases.  And also due to the separate existence of the national entities of the fraternal organizations themselves. 

For further information on the new lawsuit see:

NY Times, Women Sue Yale Over a Fraternity Culture They Say Enables Harassment

USA Today, Lawsuit Seeks to Force All-Male Fraternities to Allow Women

Independent, Female Students Sue Yale University Fraternities Attended by Brett Kavanaugh and George Bush

February 13, 2019 in Education, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Law Schools Enrolling the Most Women

Harvard Law Professors Comment on Proposed Title IX Rulemaking, Agreeing and Objecting in Part

Jeannie Suk Gersen, Nancy Gertner & Janet Halley, Comment on Proposed Title IX Rulemaking 

Jeannie Suk Gersen, Nancy Gertner, and Janet Halley, professors at Harvard Law School, have issued a Comment on the Department of Education’s Proposed Rule on Title IX enforcement. The authors write: “We strongly support vigorous enforcement of Title IX to ensure that students enjoy educational programs and activities unburdened by sexual harassment.” They argue that “sanctions for sexual harassment should apply only under a clear definition of wrongful conduct and after a process that is fair to all parties.” With these dual objectives in mind, the Comment reviews the Department of Education’s Proposed Rule and agrees with some aspects and disagrees with others.

The authors agree (with some suggested amendments) with the Rule’s treatment of the burden of proof, the rejection of the single-investigator model, and the requirement of a live hearing process. They argue that the rules they endorse do not undermine the critical goal of enforcing Title IX. They express serious concerns about the provisions on cross examination and the definition of sexual harassment, and propose revisions that will be more protective of complainants. The Comment strongly objects to provisions encouraging schools to file complaints when they have multiple allegations against a single potential respondent but no formal complainant: the inquiry there should be refocused on the threat of harm and take into account the complainants’ as well as the respondents’ interests. The three professors say that they “strongly object to the deliberate indifference standard for schools’ ultimate responsibility to respond to sexual harassment.”

Gersen, Gertner and Halley have researched, taught, and written on Title IX, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and feminist legal reform. They were three of the signatories to the statement of twenty-eight Harvard Law School professors, published in the Boston Globe on October 15, 2014, that criticized Harvard University’s newly adopted sexual harassment policy as “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused” and “in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.”

February 7, 2019 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Questioning the Required Cross-Examination of the Proposed Dept of Ed Guidelines on College Sexual Assault Cases

Suzanne Goldberg, Keep Cross-Examination Out of College Sexual Assault Cases

Requiring cross-­examination in campus sexual-­misconduct proceedings is among the key features of the Department of Education’s proposed Title IX reforms currently open for public comment. The department, relying on an oft-cited 1904 legal treatise, calls cross-­examination "the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth." Although this new mandate might seem at first like a good idea, a closer look shows otherwise.

 

The usual image of cross-examination includes trained lawyers asking precise, rigorous questions of individuals on the other side of a case and a judge ruling on well-crafted objections to improper questions. But campuses are not courtrooms, and the reality at most colleges and universities would look quite different if the proposed regulations take hold.

 

But the new regulations would change this by requiring colleges to allow each student’s adviser to do the questioning of the other student or anyone else involved in the case — not as a neutral party but as an adversary. This means that parent-advisers would have government-sanctioned authority to question their child’s accuser or alleged assailant, and a student could wind up cross-examining another student, even on the same small campus.

January 17, 2019 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Duke's Experience with Sexual Assault Policies Still Leaves Questions and Concerns

Stung By Scandal, Duke U Retooled its Sexual-Assault Policies. Here's Why It's Still Falling Short.

Behind the bar at Shooters II Saloon, a poster declares: "Innocent From the Beginning! Innocent Now!! Innocent Forever!!!"

 

Signed by Duke University’s 2006 men’s lacrosse team, the poster reflects the strong emotions and hints at the deep scars that remain from a scandal that cast a harsh national spotlight on the university more than a decade ago, when several players were falsely accused of rape.

 

Hoping to recast its reputation in the aftermath, Duke’s president at the time, Richard H. Brodhead, said it was "going over all our procedures to see what we can learn from our experience."

 

Duke revised its sexual-assault policies and spent large sums on prevention. Four years ago, the university hired a Title IX director who’d spent nearly two decades working in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Since 2014, it has filled eight new positions focusing on sexual assault.

 

By most measures, Duke professionalized its sexual-assault investigations. In college and university legal circles, it gained a reputation as "cutting edge" in the field of Title IX, the federal law governing those cases, according to Peter F. Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

 

Students took note of the university’s new stance. A former student who founded a group called Duke Students Against Gender Violence recalled that a longtime student-­affairs vice president, Larry Moneta, had told her, "You tell me how much you need, and I’ll write a check."

 

And yet, despite all that has changed at Duke, despite its revamped policies and deep pockets, the university faces a credibility problem on sexual assault. A Duke student survey, released in 2017, showed that most female undergraduates don’t trust the administration to hold rapists accountable. Only 35 percent of them said the university properly investigates sexual assault. Only about a third believed that "students found responsible for sexual assault are punished appropriately."

 

But sometimes Duke makes it harder. In the years since the lacrosse case, Duke has been accused in multiple sexual-assault investigations of violating its own procedural rules — or being more concerned with protecting its reputation than protecting students. A few cases have led to lawsuits by students who have been victims of sexual assault, or have been accused of it. Duke’s student newspaper has repeatedly called out the university for procedural missteps.

 

The Chronicle identified several cases with significant red flags. Sexual-assault cases are tricky — at colleges nationwide they are a legal and ethical minefield. But Duke’s recent history prompts some uncomfortable questions: Has the university really turned a corner on the issue? And if it hasn’t, even after significant effort and spending, what realistic chance does the rest of higher education have?

January 15, 2019 in Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Lawsuit Filed Against Harvard for Ban on Single-Sex Clubs Including Fraternities and Sororities

Harvard Sued by Fraternities and Sororities Over Single-Sex Rule

Several national fraternities and sororities sued Harvard University on Monday over a 2016 rule that discourages students from joining single-gender social clubs, marking the first legal challenge to the school's policy.

 

Two fraternities and two sororities filed a lawsuit in Boston's federal court, while another sorority separately sued the school in Massachusetts state court. Both cases argue that the school's policy discriminates against students based on their sex and spreads negative stereotypes about students who join all-male or all-female organizations.

 

Starting with last year's freshman class, Harvard students who are members of single-gender clubs are barred from leading campus groups or becoming captains of sports teams.  The school also refuses to endorse the students for prestigious fellowships, including the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. 

 

Harvard officials crafted the rule to curb secretive all-male groups known as "final clubs," whose members include some former U.S. presidents but have faced mounting criticism from the university.  A 2016 report by the school accused the clubs of having "deeply misogynistic attitudes" and tied them to problems with sexual assaults.

 

But the rule also applies to a variety of other groups, including fraternities, sororities and even single-gender musical groups. Since the rule took effect last year, at least three sororities have cut ties with their national organizations and reopened as co-ed groups.

Fraternities, Sororities Sue Harvard Over Single-Sex Club Crackdown

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, university was discriminating against students on the basis of their sex by punishing men and women who join all-male or all female-organizations, the lawsuits alleged.

 

The policy was motivated by sexism, with Harvard incorrectly seeking to link all-male organizations and fraternities to sexual assaults and contending that single-sex organizations subordinate women, according to the lawsuits.

 

“Harvard’s sanctions policy seeks to dictate the sex of people with whom men and women may associate and the gender norms to which men and women must conform,” the federal complaint said.

 

The policy has resulted in the elimination of nearly every women’s social organization, with Harvard administrators privately calling them “collateral damage” in their effort to punish men who join all-male groups, according to the complaint.

Title IX has an express exemption for fraternities and sororities:

Title IX does not apply to the membership practices of a social fraternity or social sorority if the active membership consists primarily of students in attendance at an institution of higher education and the fraternity or sorority is exempt from taxation under the Internal Revenue Code. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)(6)(A); 34 C.F.R. § 106.14(a). All other programs and activities of social fraternities and sororities are governed by Title IX if they receive any Federal financial assistance. US Dept of Education, Exemptions from Title IX

December 3, 2018 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Lawsuit Challenges School Policy Mandating Girls Wear Skirts to Promote Chivalry

Charter Day School in Leland, NC Bans Girls From Wearing Pants

Her school, Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina, prohibits female students from wearing pants or shorts — a policy that an ongoing lawsuit claims is illegal.

 

Charter Day is hardly the first school to come under fire for a controversial dress code policy, but their skirts-only rule is “definitely an outlier,” Galen Sherwin, an ACLU attorney who is involved in the case, told TODAY Style.

 

“This is definitely an extreme case,” she said. “Certainly none of the schools in the local area have a similar requirement, including the Catholic schools.”

 
Charter Day School claims their uniform policy instills “chivalry” and “traditional values” in students. Baker Mitchell, founder of the Roger Bacon Academy, the organization that runs Charter Day School, explained the rationale for the policy in a 2015 email to parent Bonnie Peltier.
 
 “Bullying and sexual harassment are current topics of concern almost everywhere we look,” Mitchell wrote. “Teen pregnancies and casual sex receive concerned attention in most communities. Thus, the uniform policy seeks to establish an environment in which our young men and women treat one another with mutual respect.”
The School Board's explanatory email is here.
The Trustees, parents, and other community supporters were determined to preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men in this school of choice. For example, young men were to hold the door open for the young ladies and to carry an umbrella, should it be needed. Ma’am and sir were to be the preferred forms of address. 
From the deposition (from ACLU):  Explaining school wants to facilitate a "code of conduct where women are treated, they're regarded as a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor."
 

November 9, 2018 in Education, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Lawsuits Against Harvard and NYU Law Reviews Allege Illegal Racial and Gender Preferences for Editors and Articles Harm White Men

Suits Against Harvard and NYU Law Reviews Claim Racial Gender Preferences

A Texas-based group called Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences (FASORP) sued the Harvard Law Review on Oct. 6 and the New York University Law Review on Sunday, claiming that their racial and gender preference policies violate federal anti-discrimination laws. The lawsuits come at a time when law reviews—the traditional bastion of white males—are celebrating the increased diversity of their membership ranks. Harvard Law School, for example, had its first black women editor-in-chief in 2017. The Columbia Law Review has its first black male editor-in-chief ever this year.***

 

The new suits allege that policies at both law reviews violate the rights of students by giving women and minorities an unlawful advantage in getting onto those sought-after organizations. Moreover, the suits allege policies that give a preference to articles written by women and minority scholars violate the rights of others hoping to place articles there.

 

“Harvard Law School and Harvard University are violating Title VI and Title IX by allowing the Harvard Law Review to use race and sex preferences when selecting its members, editors, and articles—in direct contravention of the Law School’s supposed non-discrimination policy,” read the Harvard Law Review suit.

October 9, 2018 in Education, Gender, Law schools, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)