Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposes overhaul to campus sexual misconduct rules

Her plan would scale back important Obama administration rules while adding mandates that could reshape the school disciplinary systems that schools have developed over the past decade.

As Naomi Shatz, a Boston-based students' rights lawyer, pointed out in an extensive Twitter thread, the new regulations would require a full investigation and investigative report produced for each case, along with a live hearing that includes all witnesses.

The proposal would regulate Title IX, a law that bars sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. DeVos is proposing a major overhaul to the way colleges handle complaints of sexual misconduct.

The new rules also would adopt the U.S. Supreme Court's definition of sexual harassment, which requires conduct to be so severe, pervasive and "objectively offensive" that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity.

"We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it while ensuring a fair grievance process", she added. "Those are not mutually exclusive ideas", she said. "They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function", DeVos said in a press release.

They replace previous Obama-era guidelines, which DeVos rescinded in September 2017. "Any action that limits recourse for students who experience sexual harassment or assault in schools is flat-out wrong", said AAUW CEO Kim Churches in a statement. Some college leaders complained that the rules were too complex and could be overly burdensome.

On Friday, DeVos released her department's proposed rule and welcomed public comment on it.

The proposed rules, posted online, are subject to public comment for 60 days.

Legal experts say it could dramatically reduce the number of complaints that get investigated by schools.

UW-Stevens Point takes a closer look at the proposals. The school must have "actual knowledge" of the allegations. "It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused and letting schools ignore their responsibility under Title IX to respond promptly and fairly to complaints of sexual violence".

A draft of the new Title IX rules from the Department of Education was circulated a couple of months ago and they predictably had progressive groups setting their hair on fire. She said she condemned sexual violence.

Some people are so opposed to the Title IX announcement that they are threatening DeVos.

"It will return schools to a time where rape, assault, and harassment were swept under the rug", Jess Davidson, the interim executive director of End Rape on Campus, said in a statement.

But supporters say the new rules do a better job providing equal treatment to all students.

The proposal gives the student accused the right to cross-examine the survivor through an attorney or advisor.

Personal confrontation, however, between the complainant and the respondent would not be permitted. "But having an advocate who can do so will go much further toward helping decision makers actually reach accurate results".

"The safety of the university community is paramount, and we will continue working to eradicate sexual misconduct through prevention, education and training, and to support and protect our community consistent with state and federal laws", the UI statement said.

Data from November 2, the most recent available, show the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights had 125 pending sexual violence investigations and 160 pending sexual harassment investigations. Obama-era guidelines held that harassment was "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature". The Obama guidance told schools to use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, meaning the allegation is "more likely than not" true. Otherwise, they would have to use a "clear and convincing" standard.

BU officials say they need to study the proposals and evaluate their effects before responding.

  • Rogelio Becker