Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has prepared new rules to improve the sexual misconduct policies on campuses.
Specifically, the new policies would “bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, lessen liability for institutions of higher education and encourage schools to provide more support for victims,” writes the SF Gate.
The rules, which the Education Department plans to officially propose in September, would change the definition of sexual harassment and make it tougher to find the accused students guilty.
Although the new policy encourages schools to offer more support to victims of sexual assault, it also relieves schools of liability. It would make schools accountable for only the formal complaints of campus incidents that are properly filed through authorities.
In the past, universities have been sued and forced to pay millions in settlements over mishandling complaints from students.
“Mishandling complaints can prove costly: Michigan State University agreed this spring to a $500 million payment to settle allegations by hundreds of girls and women that it didn’t appropriately investigate or respond to claims of assault by longtime sports-medicine doctor Larry Nassar. The University of Southern California is facing numerous lawsuits about its own response to allegations against a campus gynecologist,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
The Obama Administration introduced a set of guidelines in 2011 to schools and colleges that received federal funding on how to handle sexual misconduct cases.
However, these rules were often criticized for unfairly protecting sexual assault victims and making it very difficult to give the accused their due process rights. But in 2017, DeVos revoked the Obama guidelines.
“For several years, higher education administrators have maintained that sexual misconduct rules pressed by the Obama administration unnecessarily burdened them with bureaucratic mandates that had little to do with assault or harassment, and men’s rights groups have said the accused have had little recourse,” writes The SF Gate. “Unlike the Obama administration’s guidance documents, the Trump administration’s new rules will have the force of law and can go into force without an act of Congress, after a public comment period.”
DeVos has vowed to address and improve the campus processes that have failed students time and time again.
“Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved,” said DeVos last year.
The new rules are intended to streamline and to foster fair resolutions.
“The new DeVos regulations would allow schools to choose their own evidentiary standard. They could stick with a preponderance of the evidence or use a higher standard like “clear and convincing,” writes Forbes. “For the past year, under Department of Education policy, schools have been allowed to use mediation to reach informal resolutions. The proposed rules would allow both victims and accused perpetrators to request evidence from one another and to cross-examine one another, and they would give both parties access to evidence gathered during an investigation. The Obama administration saw mediation as inappropriate, even when the parties were in favor of it, and it believed that allowing the parties to question one another would be traumatic or intimidating.”
Author’s note: There was an uproar when DeVos eliminated these Obama guidelines. But the truth is they were poorly implemented. They had good intentions but again, they were poorly implemented. DeVos is protecting the constitutional rights of all students while also providing clearer and much-needed guidelines for schools.