Betsy DeVos and The trump administration have released their proposed rule on how schools should handle cases of sexual violence. If the proposed rule becomes law, survivors will lose access to their education and schools will continue to sweep sexual violence under the rug. The new rule will stop survivors from coming forward and make schools more dangerous for all students.
Here’s the good news, this proposed rule isn’t law yet! Learn More:
What does the Notice-and-Comment and Why Does it Matter?
The Department of Education issues regulations, which are requirements with which all schools that receive federal funding must comply. Like laws, these regulations are legally binding. The Department of Education will soon be soliciting public input on its new proposed regulations through “notice and comment.” The Department is legally required to respond to the input it receives from people like us through notice and comment when it issues its final regulations next year. If the Department has not sufficiently responded to our comments, if the Department cannot properly explain its reasoning, or if the regulations themselves violate Title IX, a court can strike down the Department’s regulations.
That makes our voices powerful.
Because courts can strike down regulations that don’t adequately respond to our comments, writing a detailed comment is an important way for all of us — students, parents, teachers, advocates, concerned citizens — to influence the Department of Education. Here is the proposed rule we can comment on.
How can I make sure that the Department takes my comment seriously?
Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game. The Department will take one thoughtful, well-organized, data-driven comment more seriously than hundreds of identical (or nearly identical) form letters. As Regulations.gov puts it, “The comment process is not a vote – one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters.” So, if you can, take the time to write an original comment — tips on how to do that below.
We’re also able to assist you one-on-one, too — feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance.
Use data and narratives strategically: Unfortunately, the comment process privileges the use of “objective” evidence, like data. Using data to back up your point may help your contribution be taken more seriously than solely supplying narratives in support of your claims. Consider using both.
Raise more concerns, not less: The more concerns you raise, the more the Department of Education has to read and respond to. That means that writing a long, multi-pronged comment can help delay the Department from issuing its final regulation. Every day that passes without this awful proposed rule becoming law is another day a survivor can count on support from their school. Raising many concerns can also make it more likely the Department will slip up and neglect to adequately respond to a comment; that means, doing so can increase the likelihood that a court will strike down the final regulation because the Department failed to adequately respond to your comment. Finally, raising lots of concerns can be useful because one of them just might actually persuade the Department!
Clearly organize your comment: A clearly organized comment is a stronger comment. Contractors will most likely be hired to read and categorize your comment — they may not be familiar with Title IX, so help them do a better job by clearly identifying the specific issues and the text you are commenting on. For instance, if you’re commenting on a particular proposal in the regulation, include the page number where the proposal appears. If your comment is lengthy, use clear headers to organize the various sections of your comment.
Suggest Alternatives: Try to address trade-offs and counterpoints to the arguments you make — and then rebut them. Try also to suggest alternatives to parts of the regulation with which you disagree. (That can include not regulating at all!) Trying to understand what the Department is most concerned about — and then suggesting a better, more equitable, or more effective way to address that concern — may make the Department take your comment more seriously. Finally, the Department has asked for specific feedback on a number of questions (see p. 85-88) — if you’re so inclined, take a stab at answering some or all of those.
Most of all, remember that you have an important voice. Please use it.
This webpage is heavily influenced by the work of Richard G. Stoll, Effective Written Comments in Informal Rulemaking, Admin. L. & Reg. News, Summer 2007, 15-17.
More information at Know Your IX