Education Department Releases Final Rule on Campus Sex Misconduct Allegations

Betsy DeVos
Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

The U.S. Education Department released Wednesday its final rule under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that specifies how schools that receive federal financial aid are required to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct.

The final rule requires schools to respond promptly to allegations of sexual misconduct, to provide support to those making a claim of having been sexually harassed or assaulted, and to provide a fair grievance process that delivers due process protections to the accused as well as alleged victims.

Additionally, the regulations stress colleges and universities must also address dating violence as part of their obligations to receive federal funding.

In a media call, Secretary Betsy DeVos said the new regulations were two years in the making:

Today’s announcement builds on our work to vigorously enforce Title IX. As many of you have reported, this administration has taken decisive action to hold schools accountable when they have fallen short of their responsibility to protect students. Look no further than the sweeping reforms we required at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Southern California, and Chicago Public School.

The secretary emphasized that one of her primary goals has been “focus and efficiency” in dealing with cases of sexual misconduct allegations. DeVos noted that her department has not only been addressing these issues at the college and university level, but also, for K-12 students.

Despite much blowback and a planned legal challenge to the rule from feminist activists who claim DeVos is ignoring the plight of women who say they have been harassed or assaulted, the secretary has consistently said she has taken their concerns seriously.

She maintained, however, she rejected the Obama administration’s decision to set its path for campus sex assault allegations via a “Dear Colleague” letter, one that led to “kangaroo courts” that often destroyed the academic careers of young men accused of sexual misconduct.

DeVos said, “[W]e can continue to combat sexual misconduct, without abandoning our core values of fairness, presumption of innocence, and due process.”

She added the new regulations will actually provide alleged victims “with more tools than ever before,” with support for alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault, including changes in class or dorm environments and no contact orders.

Schools must respond with options for reporting the alleged misconduct, including in writing, by email or telephone.

The secretary said, under the new rule, alleged victims, their parents, friends, or bystanders may also make reports of misconduct.

In addition, an alleged victim is not required “to file a formal complaint or to provide proof or evidence about the sexual harassment.”

A Title IX coordinator is required to contact the alleged victim to discuss supportive measures and explain options for filing a formal complaint.

Colleges will be responsible for off-campus sexual harassment “at property owned or under the control of the school,” DeVos said.

The regulations also require schools to train Title IX personnel to be “unbiased” and “impartial.”

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