Longhurst, Williams Oppose Sexual Harassment, Assault Rules

WILMINGTON – House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Rep. Kim Williams issued a joint statement Friday in response to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed regulations for campus sexual harassment and sexual assault. Reps. Longhurst and Williams have collaborated on legislation addressing campus sexual assault reporting to cultivate a safer climate for all students.

“Throughout the past several years, Delaware has taken the issue of campus sexual assault and protecting students very seriously. We have taken action so that all students can thrive in a safe, inclusive campus environment.

“Secretary DeVos’ regulations as written are short-sighted and frankly dangerous guidelines that will force additional roadblocks for victims who have courageously stepped forward to seek justice. It is sickening, and explicitly shows why victims are reluctant to share and report their experiences. Her proposal would unravel much of the progress made in recent years and lead to less reporting of these incidents, forcing these actions back into the shadows.

“What’s particularly troubling is the proposed narrow definition of harassment. Our goal should be to encourage reporting of harassment even when it occurs at a lesser level so corrective action can be taken before it becomes something serious, or as DeVos’ rule calls it, something ‘so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.’ If we’re waiting until that point to intervene, then it’s already too late and we’ve failed our children and young people.

“In Delaware, we’ve focused on different priorities; ones that look to ensure a safe, inclusive campus environment. The General Assembly has worked in concert with our local colleges and victim advocates to pass policies that value accountability, offer support for students, and foster in-depth training for students, student groups and faculty aimed at preventing and identifying sexual abuse. We are proud of that work, and fear that these federal guidelines will roll back protections that allow students to flourish.”