Feds Aim for Fall Release of Campus Sexual Misconduct Rule

Source: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2018/05/11/feds-aim-fall-release-campus-sexual-misconduct-rule?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=6f6e6b0d05-DNU20180111&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fc

 

May 11, 2018

The Department of Education plans to issue a draft regulation in September governing colleges’ handling of campus sexual misconduct, according to an update of the Trump administration’s federal regulatory agenda this week.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said when she rescinded Obama administration guidance on campus sexual assault that her department would issue a new binding regulation within the next year. The department indicated later that a new rule could be released as soon as this spring.

“I don’t read too much into it other than the fact that this is really hard and they’re trying to get it right,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs at the American Council on Education.

Hartle said that in a best-case scenario for the department, it would take between three and four months to review comments on a proposed rule and submit a final regulation. That could mean assuming a September release date of a proposed rule, a final regulation may not be issued until next spring.

The Department of Education, meanwhile, is still waiting for Senate confirmation of Kenneth L. Marcus, the White House nominee for assistant secretary for civil rights. The Office for Civil Rights, which Marcus would lead if confirmed, would oversee colleges’ compliance with a new regulation.

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Civil rights groups sue Betsy DeVos over sexual assault policy

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/25/politics/devos-title-ix-lawsuit-sexual-violence/index.html

Washington (CNN)A group of civil rights advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Education Department and its secretary, Betsy Devos, challenging the department’s move last year to roll back Obama-era guidelines on how colleges and universities should handle sexual assault and sexual violence.

In 2011, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said that colleges should use the “preponderance of the evidence,” the lowest standard of proof, when judging sexual violence cases under Title IX, the federal law that protects people from sexual discrimination in education or other programs receiving federal aid. In September 2017, the Education Department said that colleges and universities could abandon that guidance and use a higher standard, “clear and convincing evidence.”

At that time, the Education Department said that the Obama-era rules “created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”
In a press conference outside the Department of Education on Thursday, leaders of the groups challenged the change, saying that the Obama-era policy included critical protections for survivors of sexual assault, and that the Department’s guidance under DeVos had produced a “chilling effect” on survivors coming forward.
Stacy Malone, the executive director of the Victim Rights Law Center, said that before Obama issued the 2011 guidance, sexual assault survivors “did not feel like they had a voice on the own campus.” Since the Education Department rescinded that guidance, she said, survivors are back at square one.

“They fear they are no longer able to get a fair shake,” she said. “Their reports will not be taken seriously because survivors will be dismissed as women who had drunk regret sex as opposed to who they really are, victims of sexual violence.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, lists DeVos, the Department of Education and Candice Jackson, the top civil rights official at the department, as defendants. Jackson came under fire last year for saying in a New York Times interview that ’90 percent’ of sexual assault allegations come after drunken hookups. She later apologized.

In the lawsuit, the groups allege that the Education Department’s new rules surrounding sexual violence on campus were built on “unfounded generalizations about women and girls, particularly their credibility regarding reported experiences of sexual harassment, including sexual violence.” The groups are calling for the Trump administration’s Title IX policy to be vacated.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to request for comment, but previously said it plans to enact new rules after a public comment period.
In September, DeVos’s move to scrap the Obama-era rules was cheered by advocates for accused students, who said that campus judicial proceedings were biased in favor of female accusers and that the accused students — mostly men — were unable to get a fair shake.
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Why The National Women’s Law Center Knew It Had To Sue Betsy DeVos

In her four months in office, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has already racked up her share of critics, who have raised concerns about her qualifications, her support for school choice programs, and her ability to protect LGBTQ students. Now, she can officially count the National Women’s Law Center as another. On Monday, the NWLC announced it filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education to hold DeVos accountable for enforcing Title IX protections for sexual assault victims.

First introduced in conjunction with the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX was put into law to protect students from gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assault. In recent years, a number of reforms meant to help sexual assault victims on university campuses have been promoted by the Department of Education under Title IX.  However, NWLC has been disappointed by how the Department of Education has responded to their request for information on university responses to sexual assault since DeVos has been its leader.

Alexandra Brodsky, a fellow at NWLC who authored a blog post on the center’s decision to file a lawsuit, tells Bustle that the center originally filed a request to the Department of Education under the Freedom of Information Act back in January. (For those unfamiliar, the Freedom of Information Act allows American citizens to access government records for the sake of accountability and transparency.)

“In our request we asked both for the list of schools that were under investigation for sexual harassment or assault, and any resolution agreements or other documents marking the end of investigations, so we could see how the department was holding schools responsible,” Brodsky tells Bustle on the phone.

However, in the months following NWLC’s January request, there has been no response from DeVos, or anyone from the Department of Education, according to NWLC. It was this silence that pushed the NWLC to file a complaint against the DOE, which you can read here.

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