Betsy DeVos rolled back the campus sexual assault guidelines that mandate how schools handled sexual assault cases under the Title IX federal law.
In 2011, former President Barack Obama’s administration enacted the “Dear Colleague Letter,” which implemented how schools reacted to cases of sexual assault, the timeliness of their actions and how the schools treated the victim.
Part of the letter forced schools to “use the lowest standard of proof, or ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ in deciding whether a student is responsible for sexual assault,” according to the New York Times.
The Office of Civil Rights, in the education department, issued the mandate letter. It meant to address the concerns that schools were not reporting cases of sexual assault and that those schools were not taking the cases seriously enough.
Citing the letter: “If a school knows or reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”
DeVos addressed concerns that the regulations set in place by the previous administration at George Mason University in Virginia deny due process to individuals that are accused of sexual assault.
“One rape is too many, one assault is too many, one aggressive act of harassment is too many, one person denied due process is too many,” Devos said.
Schools may now decide between using the “preponderance of evidence” standard or the “clear and convincing” standard when handling sexual assault cases on campus.
The new guidelines also remove the time limit that schools must complete a Title IX investigation.
Citing the new guidance: “There is no fixed time frame under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation. OCR will evaluate a school’s good faith effort to conduct a fair, impartial investigation in a timely manner designed to provide all parties with resolution.”
President of the National Women’s Law Center Fatima Graves said that the announcement would have a “devastating” impact on students and schools.
“It will discourage students from reporting assaults, create uncertainty for schools on how to follow the law and make campuses less safe,” Graves said.