Four female House Democrats are seeking to block the Trump administration’s anticipated final rule governing campus sexual misconduct, one that is expected to emphasize the need for due process for students accused of sexual misconduct on campus.
The long-awaited overhaul of Obama-era Title IX campus sex assault policies is expected to stress those accused of sexual misconduct must be fully informed of the accusations made against them and have the ability to cross-examine their accusers.
The Democrat congresswomen – Reps. Elissa Slotkin (MI), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Jackie Speier (CA), and Annie Kuster (NH) – introduced a bill Tuesday that would block the U.S. education secretary from issuing or enforcing rules that “weaken the enforcement of the prohibition of sex discrimination applicable under title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
Slotkin represents the district that includes Michigan State University, where Larry Nassar sexually abused minor gymnasts and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after it was discovered the school mishandled the reports of the abuse.
“As the representative of the Michigan State University community that has been so deeply affected by sexual assault on campus, I cannot understand why Secretary DeVos continues to move forward with proposed changes to Title IX that make it harder for victims to come forward with a successful claim,” Slotkin said in a joint statement, insisting the changes proposed by the Trump administration “would hurt our communities.”
However, most of the cases of alleged campus sex misconduct have involved male students accused by female students – and all are largely legal adults.
Pressley said in the joint statement, “It is our responsibility to collectively affirm the dignity and the humanity of survivors of sexual violence, and Title IX has been a critical tool for doing just that on campuses across our country.”
Kuster referred to the Trump Administration’s new rule as “regressive” and “harmful,” while Speier called it an “outrageous” rule that “provides more protections to assailants” and “fewer benefits to sexual assault survivors.”
The proposed rule was released a year ago and received over 124,000 public comments, including many criticisms from feminist groups.
In September 2017, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Trump administration would be scrapping the Obama era’s policies regarding cases of sexual misconduct on college campuses.
DeVos stressed in an “interim Q & A” that all students must be protected from discrimination in school proceedings to investigate sexual assault allegations.
In her announcement, DeVos cited cases of students, nearly all male, whose right to due process was snatched from them. Many were either expelled or punished in some other manner after being accused of misconduct actions that were never proven.
“Instead of working with schools,” DeVos said, “the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights.”
Many Democrats and feminist groups have used the debunked “1 in 5” statistic to urge opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed rule.
The stat refers to the notion that “one in five women experience sexual assault or attempted assault while in college.”
However, the “1 in 5” statistic — spread widely by the Obama administration through its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — is “wildly at odds with the official crime statistics,” said American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident scholar and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the actual rate of sexual assault on college campuses is 6.1 per 1,000 students, or .03 per five. The rate of rape and sexual assault for non-students is actually 1.2 times higher than for students — 7.6 per 1,000.
“Where did the CDC find more than a million and nearly 14 million victims of sexual violence that professional criminologists somehow overlooked?” Sommers asked. “It found them by using a poorly constructed telephone survey with a low response rate and a non-representative sample of respondents. No one interviewed was asked if they had been raped or sexually assaulted.”
Armed with the false “1 in 5” statistic, however, the Obama administration threatened to cut funding to colleges and universities that did not implement its policy.
To promote its policy, the Obama-era education department engaged the media and allies, such as Planned Parenthood, with the statistic, and even the former president himself repeated it in his speeches, one in 2014 at a White House event for the Council on Women and Girls:
Today, we’re taking another important step with a focus on our college campuses. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there — 1 in 5. These young women worked so hard just to get into college, often their parents are doing everything they can to help them pay for it. So, when they finally make it there only to be assaulted, that is not just a nightmare for them and their families, it’s an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s totally unacceptable.
Three years ago, we sent every school district, college, and university that receives federal funding new instructions clarifying their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault. And we have seen progress, including an inspiring wave of student-led activism, and a growing number of students who found the courage to come forward and report attacks. That’s exactly what we want them to do.
The Obama administration also instructed colleges and universities to use the lesser “preponderance of evidence” standard to resolve allegations of sexual misconduct, rather than the higher “clear and convincing evidence” standard.
The Obama-era policy, however, ended up delivering “kangaroo courts” on college campuses in which mostly male students were accused of sexual misconduct with little information about the allegations against them and no recourse to defend themselves.
Multiple lawsuits have now been filed by students accused of sexual misconduct who say their right to due process was dismissed in college and university “courts.”
In June, Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, led a unanimous, all-woman panel of judges in reversing a lower court’s decision to dismiss a college student’s claim his right to due process was not honored, and that he was discriminated against because of his sex in a campus sex assault investigation.
In her decision in Doe v. Purdue University, Barrett, a Trump appointee, observed “John Doe” “adequately alleged” Purdue University violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights “by using constitutionally flawed procedures to determine his guilt or innocence,” and that the school had violated Title IX “by imposing a punishment infected by sex bias.”
Barrett added the evidence in the case suggests the Purdue Advisory Committee “decided that John was guilty based on the accusation rather than the evidence.”