Department of Education Rescinds Obama Administration’s Guidelines on Dealing With Campus Sexual Assault

Betsy DeVos

On April 4, 2011 the Obama administration unveiled new guidelines on how colleges and universities must respond to incidents of sexual assault on campus. Under Title IX, colleges and universities had been required to investigate sexual assault complaints. But there were no explicit guidelines on what procedures should be followed.

The guidelines, issued in a 19-page “Dear Colleague” letter from the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, specified that schools must distribute a written policy of nondiscrimination to all in the campus community. Also, colleges and universities were required to adopt and publish grievance procedures for “prompt and equitable resolution” of complaints. The guidelines stipulated that an administrator must be appointed to oversee all complaints.

Perhaps, the most controversial of the guidelines issued at that time stated that in making decisions in sexual assault cases, colleges and universities were instructed to use the more lenient rules of evidence known as a “more likely than not” rather than “clear and convincing.”

The “Dear Colleague” letter has now been withdrawn by the Trump administration. In the announcement, the U.S. Department of Education stated that the guidelines “ignored notice and comment requirements, created a system that lacked basic elements of due process, and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”

Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, said the “era of rule by letter is over. The Department of Education will follow the proper legal procedures to craft a new Title IX regulation that better serves students and schools.”

Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, responded by saying the “announcement confirms our suspicions: the U.S. Department of Education’s intent is to roll back critical civil rights protections for students. This is a blatant rollback from the strong and much-needed guidance that was in place. This ever-changing landscape could potentially sow confusion for schools, administrators and staff, students, parents, and communities.”

Filed Under: NewsSexual Assault/Harassment

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