National Women’s Law Center

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) fights for gender justice — in the courts, in public policy, and in our society — working across the issues that are central to the lives of women and girls. We use the law in all its forms to change culture and drive solutions to the gender inequity that shapes our society and to break down the barriers that harm all of us — especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination, including women of color, LGBTQ people, and low-income women and families. 

For 47 years, the NWLC has been at the forefront of national and state efforts to advance women’s reproductive rights and health, to promote the economic security of women and their families and address key barriers that women and girls face in schools and the workplace. NWLC deploys strategies to drive progress in these core areas, leveraging its in-depth legal and policy expertise, extensive litigation and administrative experience, solid connections with key decision makers, a broad network of national and state-based partners, and robust communications and digital engagement capacity.  Throughout its work, NWLC seeks to develop creative legal solutions to both new and long-entrenched problems, to make connections across issue areas, and to build broad coalitions, including by engaging new, non-traditional partners.

THE CASE: SurvJustice v. DeVos challenges efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to weaken protections against sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment in schools. To ensure that students are not denied equal access to educational opportunities based on their sex, the Department has historically enforced Title IX policies that required schools to investigate and adjudicate sexual harassment complaints in ways that afforded appropriate substantive and procedural protections to all parties and allowed survivors to feel safe reporting harassment and seeking help. But in September 2017, the Department adopted a new Title IX Policy, requiring schools to implement harmful mandates that dissuade survivors from reporting incidents of sexual harassment.

The 2017 Policy undermines the fundamental anti-discrimination aim of Title IX, makes schools less safe, and impedes women’s and girls’ access to educational opportunities. For example, the new 2017 Policy allows schools to impose more burdensome standards of evidence in determining whether sexual harassment occurred; allows schools to offer appeal rights only to named harassers and not to victims of harassment; allows schools to refuse to address off-campus harassment; allows questioning about the complainant’s sexual history; allows schools to refuse to take any interim measures to address the educational and safety needs of a survivor while an investigation is ongoing; and abandons any clear time frame in which schools must take action to address harassment complaints. In November of 2018, the Department went a step further, proposing new Title IX regulations that would further entrench these harmful policies.  These regulations are expected to be finalized later this year.

With co-counsel from the Democracy Forward Foundation, the National Center for Youth Law, and Equal Rights Advocates, NWLC has challenged the Title IX 2017 Policy in SurvJustice v. DeVos in the Northern District of California, arguing that it is arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and asking that the policy be vacated. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Ken Marcus, and the U.S. Department of Education are the named defendants. In addition, if the Department issues final Title IX regulations similar to those it proposed in 2018, NWLC anticipates bringing litigation challenging those regulations as arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.

Grant contacts:  Erica Thurman, Manager of Foundation Relations, ethurman@nwlc.org, 202-238-3318; Emily Martin, Vice President for Education and Workplace, emartin@nwlc.org, 202-588-5180