With one swoop of the pen, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded key parts of the Obama-era Title IX standards that deal with how schools are required to handle sexual assault allegations.
The department’s official statement is that the old rules “lacked basic elements of fairness,” which follows the trend of complaints that the law was too harsh on the accused, denying them due process of law.
This argument hinges on the controversial rule stating that the evidence incriminating an individual in campus assault cases only had to be “a preponderance of evidence,” meaning more likely than not, or a greater than a 50 percent chance. With DeVos’ move, colleges can now opt to use the “beyond a reasonable doubt” or “clear and convincing” method, which makes it harder for the victim to prove assault.
Supporters of the Title IX regulations claim that with this statement, vital protections for victims may be lost and victims may feel more apprehensive to report cases.
Fatima Goss Graves, President of the National Women’s Law Center, issued a statement saying that the new ruling will “discourage students from reporting assaults, create uncertainty for schools on how to follow the law and make campuses less safe.”
The guidelines have been replaced with a question-and-an
swer document for schools to follow. Schools now have more flexibility to establish their own procedures to handle sexual assault allegations.
Another concerning element of Devos’ bold move is that the strict timeline for responding to sexual assault complaints has been withdrawn.
One major criticism of PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee’s handling of the cases was not responding in a timely fashion to complaints. With DeVos’s move, the timeline no longer exists.
Furthermore, the Education Department recently issued the statement that “the standard of evidence for evaluating a claim of sexual misconduct should be consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases.”
This essentially means that all cases reported (cheating, plagiarism or sexual assault) will be treated with same importance, rather than giving sexual assault complaints a priority.
The sudden reversal has direct repercussions on Palo Alto High School (Paly) students.
The guidelines that DeVos revoked were the same guidelines that District administrators did not act in accordance to in the controversial sexual assault case earlier this year.