Dive Brief:

  • A federal judge Tuesday dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union-backed lawsuit that sought to void the U.S. Department of Education’s contentious new rule governing campus sexual violence.  

  • The ACLU filed it on behalf of four activist groups in May, arguing certain provisions of the Title IX regulation, such as no longer looking into certain off-campus cases, were unlawful.

  • This is the latest defeat in a string of legal challenges against the rule, suggesting it will likely remain in effect for some time. 

Dive Insight:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ new rule directing how colleges should investigate and potentially punish campus sexual assault went into effect in August. 

The changes represent a significant shift from the Obama administration’s position on Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination in education. Its guidance is credited with bolstering survivor protections.

DeVos’ rule narrows the definition of sexual harassment, and it reduces the number of cases colleges would need to investigate. It also creates a quasi-judicial system for reviewing allegations, in which both parties, through a surrogate, can cross-examine the other. 

Survivor advocacy groups, as well as Democratic attorneys general, sued shortly after DeVos issued the final rule in May. None have succeeded in blocking the regulation so far. 

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, threw out the ACLU-led case Tuesday, writing that the organizations lacked standing to sue. One of them, Know Your IX, can file an amended complaint, however.

The groups argued the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the process by which government agencies issue regulation. And they said it undermined the intent of Title IX and created burdens for colleges to comply. 

Bennett wrote that Know Your IX, specifically, didn’t prove the rule was reducing student reports of sexual violence. In a previous court case against the department’s Title IX policies, Bennett wrote, the plaintiff was able to show a decrease in student complaints.  

Know Your IX also didn’t demonstrate the rule resulted in more work for the organization, as it alleged. The group said in court filings it received a “spike in training requests” for spring 2020 and believed it would see more, but Bennett wrote this was speculative. 

Know Your IX tweeted Wednesday it was disappointed with the decision and would discuss next steps with its counsel.

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