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Education Dept. unveils controversial sexual misconduct rules

Education Dept. unveils controversial sexual misconduct rules

Under the proposal, fewer allegations would be considered sexual harassment and schools would be responsible only for investigating incidents that are part of campus programs and activities and that were properly reported. The new rule would add protections for students accused of assault, harassment or rape, and reduce liability faced by schools.

DeVos has been rolling back Obama-era protections and guidelines for the Title IX civil rights law, after meeting with men's rights activists and deciding that they were inexplicably more victimized than, you know, actual victims of sexual assault.

The Education Department says the proposal ensures fairness for students on both sides of accusations, while offering schools greater flexibility to help victims who don't want to file formal complaints that could trigger an investigation.

The proposed rules, which will go into effect after a public comment period, are "intended to promote the objective of Title IX by requiring recipients to address sexual harassment, assisting and protecting victims of sexual harassment and ensuring that due process protections are in place for individuals accused of sexual harassment", the Education Department noted in a summary.

"I think that by affording students a fair process, it protects not only the due process rights of the accused, but also the integrity of the process as a whole", Samantha Harris with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said.

On Twitter, Lambda Legal noted that LGBTQ students are statistically more likely to be survivors of sexual assault, adding that the proposed changes could be "incredibly destructive" for queer students nationwide. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said in a roundtable discussion quoted by the Washington Post that the new rules will "will prioritize the interests of the institutions and the accused, while undermining protections for survivors".

"With one in five women sexually assaulted while in college, we are facing a national rape epidemic on our campuses, yet Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration just put out new rules encouraging schools to be more complicit in sexual violence", declared Shaunna Thomas of the women's rights group UltraViolet.

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Personal confrontation, however, between the complainant and the respondent would not be permitted. Especially vulnerable under the new rules are transgender students, who experience higher rates of sexual harassment and violence than their peers.

In September 2017, DeVos rescinded a set of 2011 rules that were created under the Obama administration and guided schools on how to handle complaints. Some colleges complained that the rules were too complex and could be overly burdensome.

But supporters say the proposal does a better job providing equal treatment to all students.

The definition of sexual misconduct that administrators would be obligated to investigate would be narrowed, reflecting frustrations from right-wing politicians at the Obama administration's interpretation of federal gender-based protections under Title IX. The new proposal would allow a "clear and convincing" standard, meaning the claim is highly probable.

(Meanwhile, schools can still use the preponderance standard for a host of other disciplinary infractions - but never in the case of Title IX violations.) This has never before been the standard for sexual-assault cases.

The new rules also place an emphasis on "presumption of innocence" and cross-examination through parties' advisers, according to the Education Department. A statement from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities says it expects schools to "far exceed" the minimum that's required in Title IX rules.