As rising seniors at Scarsdale High School, we are writing to inform you of a recent federal regulation passed by the secretary of education on Title IX, and of the urgency in responding to many of its discriminatory clauses.
On May 6, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos passed changes to Title IX, a federal civil rights law that makes schools work proactively toward gender equality and maintain established procedures against sexual harassment and sexual assault. The changes contain dangerous provisions that go against best practices, tip the scales against survivors, and jeopardize tens of thousands of K-12 students’ civil right to an education free from discrimination.
The most glaring example of these backward regulations is the definition of sexual harassment. Under new changes, sexual harassment is defined as “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.” Previously, the definition was severe or pervasive. With the revision, if an act is, for example, severe and objectively offensive but not pervasive, it would not meet the definition. Schools would not be obligated to consider it sexual assault and can sweep cases like these under the rug, even if it’s proven that the accused did commit these acts.
The federal government’s attempt to pass discriminatory civil rights legislation in the middle of a pandemic and nationwide protests should not go unnoticed. It is important for our Scarsdale community to stay aware and cognizant of the laws that affect us so deeply, especially those concerning K-12 education and safety.
We, as students and community members, have been calling on the Scarsdale Union Free School District to uphold the rights of all K-12 students in our district. We compiled a list of demands that we would like the Scarsdale Board of Education to implement to the best of its ability. The board has the flexibility to choose how it interprets each clause, which means they have the power and obligation to stand up for survivors. We created a petition with nine specific demands we wanted the board to implement (https://www.change.org/p/the-scarsdale-board-of-education-stop-2020-title-ix-changes-in-scarsdale), which has already accumulated more than 200 signatures from concerned citizens.
As we explain to you the importance of the new Title IX changes and our actions in response to them, we are hoping that you would issue an article in The Scarsdale Inquirer to inform others in Scarsdale of the existence and ramifications of these discriminatory changes, and contact local representatives about Title IX to ensure the issue does not get swept under the rug. These federal regulations will be enforced on Aug. 14, so it is imperative that we spread awareness and affect change immediately.
VIVIAN GUO and HAE WON SUNG
SHS class of 2021