Debra Katz Talks Civil Rights Protections with Ms. Magazine

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Debra Katz was quoted in a Ms. Magazine article titled, “Civil Rights Wronged.” The author reviews the current administration’s pattern of slashing protections for individuals whose civil rights have been violated.  Through strategic inaction and extreme political appointments, offices that acted as safeguards for vulnerable Americans for decades are being weakened, and their missions ignored.

Among the most widely known appointments has been that of Candice Jackson to the position of acting assistant secretary of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights – a job that oversees the enforcement of federal laws regarding Title IX and sexual assault in schools. Jackson demonstrated her hostility toward survivors of sexual violence and signaled the direction of the office when she commented to the New York Times that “the accusations – 90 percent – fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”

This false and damaging comment “plays into the worst rape culture myths about women,” says Ms. Katz, who foresees sexual assault survivors facing a far tougher path to justice with Jackson and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in power. Taking away university hearing boards as a tool for survivors will discourage reporting and ultimately create a “real danger on college campuses,” states Ms. Katz.

The article discusses other ways in which civil rights are under attack, including the Justice Department’s attack on LGBT rights, and protection of voting laws that disproportionately disenfranchise people of color. Undocumented immigrants cannot report civil rights violations because of fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could deport them at a moment’s notice. And even smaller line items such as programs that teach sexual health to teens are being axed by The Department of Health and Human Services. All of these acts show that while the Trump administration’s legislative agenda has been mostly stifled, its executive reach is causing major problems across the civil rights spectrum.

The full story appears in the Fall 2017 issue of Ms. Magazine, and can be viewed here.