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  • Kaley Lawrimore

Betsy DeVos: Obama-era sexual assault policy scrapped

On Sept. 22, the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance on investigating sexual assault allegations on campus.

While the Education Department conducts a review of Title IX responsibility and compliance, a Q&A guidance document will be used.

The document said, in part, “The Department of Education intends to engage in rule-making on the topic of schools’ Title IX responsibilities concerning complaints of sexual misconduct, including peer-on-peer sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

The temporary guidance document also outlines the current expectation for colleges and universities with sexual misconduct allegations.

The guidance urges college administrators to ensure "any process made available to one party in the adjudication procedure should be made equally available to the other party."

It also said, "Schools are cautioned to avoid conflicts of interest and biases in the adjudicatory process and to prevent institutional interests from interfering with the impartiality of the adjudication.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that these types of crimes will not be ignored anymore.

"This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly," said DeVos. "Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug."

This comes on the heels of remarks DeVos made earlier in September at George Mason University where she denounced the current processes of sexual misconduct investigations at higher education institutions, which she refers to “a system run amok.”

"One rape is one too many,” said DeVos among a crowd of protestors. “One person denied due process is one too many.”

Officials with the Education Department plan to meet with various university officials to figure out the best way to move forward when it comes to investigating and making formal decisions on “peer-on-peer harassment and sexual violence,” according to a statement.

"In the coming months, hearing from survivors, campus administrators, parents, students and experts on sexual misconduct will be vital as we work to create a thoughtful rule that will benefit students for years to come," said DeVos. "We also will continue to work with schools and community leaders to better address preventing sexual misconduct through education and early intervention."

The “Dear Colleague” guidance letter issued in 2011 by the Obama administration was also rescinded.

DeVos said the letter "required schools to adopt a minimal standard of proof…in administering student discipline," such as the expulsion of students accused of sexual misconduct.

"As I said earlier this month, the era of rule by letter is over," DeVos said. "The Department of Education will follow the proper legal procedures to craft a new Title IX regulation that better serves students and schools."

The 2017 Clery Act for Coastal Carolina University was released Sept. 29.

“The Clery Act requires institutions of higher education to comply with certain campus safety- and security-related requirements as a condition of participating in the Federal student financial aid programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In 1986, Jeanne Clery was raped and murder in her door room by a fellow student. Her parents created the Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Police and Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) in her memory.

The Clery Act also contains the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, which requires colleges to disclose educational programming, campus disciplinary process, and victim rights regarding sexual violence complaints.

CCU's Title IX office released this statement: "The University has received the interim guidance from Assistant Secretary Candice Jackson rescinding the 2011 Dear Colleague letter. In response to these kinds of changes, our process requires a full analysis. We have begun this review and analysis to determine the impact, if any, it may have on CCU’s approach."

We will update this story.

(Photo: PBS)

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