The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) sued the Department of Education Monday in an effort to compel the agency to release data concerning its oversight of sexual harassment and assault complaints on college campuses.
In January, the NWLC, a non-profit women’s rights advocate, filed a Freedom of Information Act petition for data concerning the Department of Education’s enforcement of Title IX, a federal law requiring all schools that receive federal funding to prohibit sexual discrimination and to respond quickly to all reports sexual harassment.
NWLC President-elect Fatima Gross Graves
The Department has yet to turn over a single document to the NWLC according to President-elect Fatima Gross Graves. In a statement released by the advocacy group, she said, “Radio silence from the Department of Education in response to our simple request to see documents about its enforcement of prohibitions against sexual harassment in schools is totally unacceptable. There is a lot at stake.”
Alexandra Brodsky, a blogger for the NWLC, wrote Tuesday: “We sued the Department because apparently, we need a federal judge to force DeVos and her agency to live up to their legal responsibilities.”
In the formal complaint, the NWLC writes, “The records are a matter of public concern. Without their release, students, families, and legal service providers such as NWLC will be kept in the dark about whether and how ED enforces Title IX’s protections for student survivors of sexual harassment, including rape. Without their release, victims will not know whether they can trust their government to enforce civil rights laws and intervene on their behalf.”
The NWLC began as a project to secure and protect the advancement of women’s legal rights in 1972.
During the Obama administration, the NWLC had access to annual reports from ED and found 397 investigations of colleges mishandling reports of sexual violence since 2011. Of those, 335 still remain open.
However, since the change to the Trump administration, the NWLC has not had the same level of access to data from ED. In a confirmation hearing in January, DeVos said, “It would be premature” to decide whether or not to follow the same outlines and principles set forth under Obama’s presidential terms.