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Betsy DeVos to Announce Changes on Title IX Enforcement

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to announce how the Department of Education will address Title IX enforcement while speaking at George Mason University on Thursday.

DeVos has argued that the guidance created during the Obama administration on how universities should address sexual assault complaints isn’t effective. According to ABC News, DeVos told the Associated Press that the current system “is not working right and well for anyone.”

“We know we have to get this right,” DeVos said. “We have to get this right on behalf of all students.”

According to ABC News, while considering changing the current policy, DeVos has met with sexual assault victims, individuals wrongly accused of assault and college representatives.

At the center of the debate is the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter, which was released in 2011 by the Office for Civil Rights, according to Reason. The letter mandated that universities comply with Title IX, and that sexual violence and sexual harassment are forms of gender inequality, thus requiring universities to “investigate and adjudicate” sexual assault cases, Reason reports.
Unlike criminal courts where a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is used, universities are only required to determine whether a student was “more likely than not” to have committed the offense, ABC reports.

“The era of 'rule by letter' is over,” DeVos’ speech says, according to Reason. “Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach.”

According to ABC News, opponents of the Obama-era guidelines argue that they force college to “take heavy action” against students accused of sexual misconduct. As is outlined in Reason's article, opponents believe that the guidance violates the due process guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment, and that due to its questionable legality, several students who were found guilty of misconduct ended up being found innocent in cases against their universities.

However, based on a glimpse of DeVos’ announcement, it appears that she will subject the guidelines to public scrutiny. “We will seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise and the experiences of students to replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system,” her speech reportedly says, according to Reason.

While advocacy groups who support the guidance created during the Obama administration believe they are flawed, they argue that the policy is worth saving since it has protected many sexual assault victims and forced universities to confront long unaddressed sexual assault issues on their campuses, ABC News reports.

 

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