Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017

DeVos expected to share plans on Title IX enforcement

By By COLLIN BINKLEY

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said Obama administration guidance on how colleges should handle sexual assault complaints isn't working and suggested it needs to be revised.

She was expected to detail her plans Thursday in what the Education Department described as a major policy address on Title IX enforcement.

That law, enacted in 1972, forbids discrimination based on sex in education. It was once seen as a measure to ensure equity in college sports, but in recent years has become associated with efforts to address sexual assault and harassment at college campuses.

The Obama administration reshaped how colleges handle complaints of sexual assault, setting new rules and starting hundreds of investigations into colleges accused of straying from them.

DeVos hasn't shared her plans on the topic, but in an interview with The Associated Press she said the system "is not working right and well for anyone."

"We know we have to get this right," she said. "We have to get this right on behalf of all students."

Some victim advocates and legal experts say that even if DeVos rolls back existing rules, colleges are unlikely to reverse policies put in place in response to the Obama-era rules.

In contemplating policy changes, DeVos held meetings with students who said they were victims of assault, those who said they were wrongly accused, and representatives of colleges and universities.

Central to the debate is a 2011 department memo that laid out rules colleges must follow when responding to complaints of sexual assault from their students.

The memo requires colleges to investigate complaints even if there's a separate criminal inquiry. It also established what has become a polarizing standard of evidence used to judge cases.

Unlike in criminal courts, where guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, colleges judge students based on whether it's "more likely than not" they committed the offense.

Colleges that are found to have violated Title IX rules can lose federal funding entirely, although the department has never imposed that penalty.

Some advocacy groups say the Obama-era policies are flawed but worth saving. They argue the policies have protected many students and forced colleges to confront problems that were long kept quiet.

Opponents say the rules have swung the pendulum too far and pressure colleges to take hasty and heavy action against students accused of misconduct.

Since President Donald Trump took office, critics including men's rights groups and lawyers representing students accused of misconduct have called for an overhaul of the system.

Advocacy groups that support victims of assault have been bracing for changes to the rules but say Title IX will continue to protect students.

On Wednesday, students and representatives from groups including the National Women's Law Center delivered more than 100,000 petitions in support of the existing policy.

2017-09-07 15:33:24 GMT

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