WASHINGTON – Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced last week plans to rescind Obama-era rules for investigating campus sexual assault allegations saying college campuses need a more “workable, effective and fair system.”
In a speech at George Mason University, DeVos announced plans to walk back the Obama-era Title IX guidelines.
“Here is what I’ve learned: the truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” DeVos said, according to a video of the address obtained by the Washington Post. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”
“That’s why we must do better, because the current approach isn’t working,” she added.
Title IX, a federal law first enacted in 1972, forbids discrimination based on gender in schools and education programs that receive federal funding. Originally designed to address inequality in college sports, the scope of the law has grown in recent years to include various gender-related issues like sexual assault and transgender bathrooms.
In 2011, the Obama administration issued a memo referred to as the “Dear Colleague” letter to provide guidelines for schools to handle accusations of sexual assault. The letter, based on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, was not backed by formal legislation, but schools risked losing funding for defying the guidance.
DeVos says it is time to overhaul the Obama-era rules, expressing particular concern over due process for individuals accused.
“In order to ensure that America’s schools employ clear, equitable, just and fair procedures that inspire trust and confidence, we will launch a transparent notice-and-comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties in developing a better way,” DeVos said in the video. “We will seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise and the experiences of students to replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system.”
Democrats in Washington were quick to express outrage over the announcement. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, a frequent critic of DeVos, was quick to fire back at the education secretary. Shortly after the announcement, Franken tweeted his disapproval, saying he was “deeply troubled” by the decision to overhaul campus sexual assault guidelines.
DeVos’ announcement does not come as a surprise. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos declined to commit to upholding the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX. In February, DeVos’ department rolled back Obama-era guidelines on Title IX protections to transgender and gender nonconforming students, a move Franken called “disturbing.”
The Department of Education has yet to release official plans for changing the campus sexual assault policy.
Watch DeVos’ full address on Title XI and campus sexual assault here.