Slotkin to DeVos: It's time you meet with Nassar victims
Washington — Freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is urging Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to meet with sexual assault victims of Larry Nassar to help DeVos' decision-making as she revises federal guidelines for campus sexual misconduct policies.
Slotkin's district includes East Lansing and Michigan State University, where the now disgraced Nassar was a sports doctor.
The Holly Democrat said she's met with at least a dozen of his victims and was headed to Lansing on Thursday evening speak to more of them.
"She is attempting to make changes to Title IX that really take us in the opposite direction and reject all the lessons we should be learning from the experience at Michigan State with Larry Nassar," Slotkin told The Detroit News.
"If she’s going to go ahead and make these fundamental changes to Title IX that are going to impact hundreds of thousands of folks, then she should have a conversation with the very people that Title IX impacts."
Slotkin was referring to DeVos' department revising federal guidelines for how institutions investigate sexual assault allegations under Title IX of federal civil rights law.
DeVos, who is from the Grand Rapids area, has previously met with students falsely accused of sexual misconduct, as well as advocates for sexual assault victims.
DeVos has criticized rules established by the Obama administration and said her proposal is meant in part to be more fair to students who are accused of misconduct, saying one person denied due process is one too many.
"Given how impactful these meetings have been for me, I urge you to meet with survivors of sexual assault on college campuses, including MSU," Slotkin wrote in a Thursday letter to DeVos.
"I believe that your understanding of important issues will be incomplete if you do not spend time with the women who have survived this systemic abuse and can best inform you how to prevent it in the future."
In addition to the letter, Slotkin also submitted a public-records request to the Education Department to confirm whether DeVos has actually ever met with any campus sexual assault victims, she said.
"None of the folks in the survivor-advocate community that I’ve met with have met with her. They've never had a request from her," Slokin said.
"These are folks who are now in leadership and advocacy positions for organizations and for the state of Michigan that put them in a really great position to speak on behalf of the larger survivor community.
"Particularly since we’re all Michiganders, it struck me as strange that I hadn't heard of one survivor who had actually spent any time with her," Slotkin added. "I’d be happy to be wrong."
A spokeswoman for DeVos did not respond Thursday to a message seeking comment.
The department previously said it's reviewing comments on the proposed Title IX changes.
"The tragic situation at MSU involving Larry Nassar is further proof that the current Title IX framework has failed far too many students and shows that the prior administration’s policies have not worked," DeVos spokeswoman Liz Hill said in February.
Nassar, who also was a sports doctor for USA Gymnastics, is serving what amounts to life in prison after admitting to to sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment for decades.
Slotkin said she met this week with Title IX experts and plans to introduce legislation to put in place protections that would "override" the Title IX revisions should they go through.
Her guest for President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in February was Amanda Thomashow, who filed the first Title IX complaint against Nassar in 2014.
Slotkin noted that MSU wouldn't have had to investigate Thomashow's complaint under the Education Department's proposed guidelines.
That's because colleges would have to investigate only if the alleged incident occurred on campus or in other areas overseen by the school. Thomashow saw Nassar in an office across the street from campus.
The proposal also says accused students must be able to cross-examine their accusers, albeit through a representative. Slotkin worries this would "retraumatize" victims, she said.
"The proposed changes would mean the young women at universities would have less access to protections than someone in a traditional workplace like their parents," Slotkin said. "That is just backwards."
She is also working on a bill with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, on the need to notify the university president's office when a Title IX complaint is logged, she said.
Slotkin is set to meet with DeVos in early May.
"I want to have person-to-person meeting with her and appeal to her Michigander to Michigander, and make sure she knows what these proposed changes mean to people at Michigan State and the surrounding community," Slotkin said.
"I want to have a person to person conversation in the hopes that she rethinks and revises some of her proposed changes."