SurvJustice Joins Eleven Other Organizations to Request Correction and Rescission of DeVos’ 2017 Dear Colleague Letter Pursuant to the Information Quality Act
Today, SurvJustice joined eleven other organizations in petitioning a Request for Correction to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ 2017 Dear Colleague Letter (“2017 DCL”). The 2017 DCL, signed by Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson, lists several misrepresented and false claims as a basis for rescinding the Obama-era 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and 2014 Question and Answer (“Prior Guidance”) documents, which both outlined sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in education, prohibited under Title IX.
The Information Quality Act (“IQA”), enacted in December 2000 via the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001, requires that the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issue guidelines and standards that federal agencies must follow when sharing information with the public. The IQA also establishes a procedure to submit a Request for Correction when the information does not conform to the standards set forth by the OMB. The IQA guidelines specific to the Department of Education (“Department”) apply not only when sharing information developed by a federal agency, but also when utilizing third party research to support its official claims.
The Department’s withdrawal of the Prior Guidance relies heavily on factually inaccurate, uncited information in the 2017 DCL. This reliance on uncited, inaccurate information is a direct violation of the IQA and the Department’s own IQA guidelines.
On behalf of the twelve organizations on the petition, the Democracy Forward Foundation and the National Center for Youth Law formally made the Request for Correction, which includes the removal of inaccurate information given in the 2017 DCL. Without the false claims in the 2017 DCL, the Department’s decision to rescind the Prior Guidance is unfounded. Therefore, the petition establishes that the only appropriate recourse would be to undo the rescission entirely and reinstate the Prior Guidance.
In the petition, six of the Department’s incorrect statements are specifically outlined and rebutted:
The 2017 DCL provides no citations for any of these claims, which may be explained by the fact that each statement either directly contradicts existing research and polling of educational institutions that receive federal funding, or is unfounded without any such research. In the petition, the signatories cite surveys by the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight in 2014 and by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in 2011 which explain the minimal usage of clear and convincing evidence as the standard in institutions of higher education and the mostly equal opportunity for appeal rights.
The IQA permits affected persons to file a Request for Correction. The twelve organizations signing on to the Request explain that the 2017 DCL makes their jobs as advocates more difficult, specifically as they try to oppose schools switching to a higher evidentiary standard and one-sided appeals processes because of the incorrect suggestion that many schools were already doing so.
The Department has 60 days to respond to the Request for Correction, making the deadline August 26, 2018.
Authored by Olivia Gunther, SurvJustice Legislative Intern
The information on this blog is provided for general informational and educational purposes only. By using this blog site, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and SurvJustice. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from SurvJustice or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. While the blog is updated on a regular basis, it may not reflect the most current legal developments.