Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Friday that the U.S. Department of Education would rescind Title IX regulations and guidance issued by President Barack Obama in 2011 for investigating cases of campus sexual assault.
Advocates for sexual violence awareness had praised the regulations for requiring schools to do more to protect students and survivors of sexual assault. Yet critics have argued that the rules fail to ensure due process for those accused of such crimes and overstep the federal government’s authority to fight sex discrimination in schools under Title IX.
In July, DeVos met with survivors of campus sexual assault and with men who had been wrongfully accused of such crimes. Following those meetings, she announced her concerns that the Obama administration’s regulations leaned heavily in favor of accusers and that the Education Department would begin investigating the legality of such policies.
The rules implemented by Obama required that all schools receiving federal funding conduct their own investigations into incidents of sexual assault rather than relying solely on law enforcement. Institutions were required to use the preponderance standard in their investigations, which placed the burden of proof on the accused rather the complainant. The regulations also mandated that investigations be completed within a reasonable time frame and that complainants be guaranteed the right to appeal cases in which the accused were found not guilty. All of these requirements led to what critics say was undue pressure on schools to convict students — mostly men — without due process.
Survivors and their advocates, however, are calling DeVos’ decision a huge step backwards in the fight to end sex discrimination and sexual violence on college campuses.
The Education Department is now conducting a formal review to determine how to replace the Obama-era regulations. In the meantime, institutions are still required to conduct their own investigations of sexual assault cases. It is up to individual schools whether they want to use the preponderance standard or place the burden of proof on the accuser.
For more information on the U.S. Department of Education’s interim guidelines for investigating sexual assault, visit ww2.ed.gov.