DeVos sets stage to rewrite Obama-era sexual assault guidance
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday blasted President Obama’s sexual assault policy for failing to foster an environment of safety and fairness on college campuses.
“We need to get this right,” DeVos told reporters following her meeting with sexual assault victims and those who have been wrongly accused under the current policy, saying that federal guidance should take both the victim and the accused into account.
“No student should be the victim of sexual assault. No student should feel unsafe,” she declared. “No student should feel like there isn’t a way to seek justice, and no student should feel that the scales are tipped against him or her.”
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President Trump’s administration has indicated openness to reforming the current sexual assault guidance in light of criticism that it violates the due-process rights of the accused.
The Office of Civil Rights’ “Dear Colleague Letter,” a document that outlined certain school policy expectations when it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, is said to be the primary culprit behind the ineffective trial system adopted by most universities around the country.
Critics frequently argue that colleges are not properly equipped to deal with sexual assault on their own, and that the matter should be handled in a court of law.
Others also criticize the “preponderance of evidence” standard used in school trials, and campaign in favor of the allowing the accused to have the right to counsel during disciplinary hearings.
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Supporters of the Obama-era policy, however, argue that it helps protect victims by encouraging them to report sexual assault without fear of retaliation from the accused.
“All their stories are important," DeVos reiterated after the meeting, according to USA Today, later adding that the stories she heard about sexual assault “reminded me of the disgusting behavior of some in our society” and underscored that “We must expect more of our young men and women.”
While the Education Secretary warned that colleges and universities can’t go back to an era when allegations of sexual assault were "swept under the rug,” she also noted that many stories of those who have been wrongly accused under the current system remain unknown.
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According to the Department of Education, DeVos’ meeting on Thursday included three separate discussions with the survivors of sexual violence, students falsely accused under Title IX, and various experts and representatives of educational institutions.
Each session lasted 90 minutes and included representatives of organizations that have rigorously campaigned to either defend or reform the current policy.
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