Published: Fri, September 22, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Obama-era campus sex assault rules rescinded

Obama-era campus sex assault rules rescinded

The U.S. Department of Education withdrew Obama-era guidance on Title IX and sexual assault at schools and college campuses Friday, and it released interim guidance it plans to leave in place while it seeks public input to inform a new policy "that better serves students and schools".

The Education Department said the new guidance does not absolve schools of their duty to "confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug", DeVos said in a statement announcing the changes. "But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes".

Today's newly released Q&A on campus sexual misconduct outlines schools' responsibility to address reports of sexual assault, offer interim measures such as counseling and modified class schedules for students throughout university investigations and conduct equitable investigations conducted by a trained investigator.

The department will replace the Obama-era directives with new standards that "emphasize the importance of fairness and impartiality", a senior department official told reporters Friday, echoing a common rallying cry of advocates for students who have been accused of assault. Additionally, the 2011 letter was blamed for placing pressure on colleges to create policies that were unfair for the accused that lacked due process.

DeVos has signaled empathy for accused students in recent months, holding "listening sessions" for both survivors and falsely accused students.

Mrs DeVos said earlier this month: "Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach".

Under Oboma, schools were directed to use "preponderance of guilt" in deciding an accused student's culpability, a lesser standard than criminal cases, which require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

"DeVos echoed critics during parts of her speech on September 7 at George Mason University, blasting the rules for creating "'increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines" and relying on the "lowest standard of proof".

DeVos has cited a task force of the American Bar Association and another by the American College of Trial Lawyers, both of which managed to find consensus on how to make the current system more fairer to accused students, according to NPR.

DeVos has also proposed getting campuses out of the business of adjudicating cases of sexual assault, and outsource the job to experts.

The new interim instructions will allow universities to decide the standard of evidence to be used when handling complaints.

During his tenure, the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights investigated more than 300 such complaints.

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