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New Title IX regulations prioritize ‘fair’ handling of sex misconduct cases

Secretary DeVos unveiled provisions that strengthen due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pauses as she testifies during a hearing of a House Appropriations Sub-Committee on the fiscal year 2021 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Trump administration is barring most international students and all students who entered the U.S. illegally from receiving emergency college grants approved by Congress as part of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. DeVos issued the restriction in new guidelines released Tuesday, April 21, 2020, telling colleges how to distribute more than $6 billion in grants meant to help students cover unexpected costs triggered by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pauses as she testifies during a hearing of a House Appropriations Sub-Committee on the fiscal year 2021 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Trump administration is barring most international students and all students who entered the U.S. illegally from receiving emergency college grants approved by Congress as part of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. DeVos issued the restriction in new guidelines released Tuesday, April 21, 2020, telling colleges how to distribute more than $6 billion in grants meant to help students cover unexpected costs triggered by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Education announced provisions to Title IX regulations on Tuesday.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law meant to protect individuals from sex discrimination in schools and other federally-funded programs.

The new regulations focus heavily on the process of reporting and investigating sex discrimination, strengthening due process rights for students accused of sexual harassment.

Accused students will now be presumed innocent throughout the disciplinary process and have the right to access any evidence collected against them. Students involved in the disciplinary process can now cross examine one another during live hearings through a lawyer or representative.

Schools and colleges must now choose between implementing the “by a preponderance of the evidence” evidentiary standard, or “by clear and convincing evidence" during the disciplinary process. The evidentiary standard selected must be implemented across all student and employee cases.

“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process. We can and must continue to fight sexual misconduct in our nation’s schools, and this rule makes certain that fight continues.”

Revisions under DeVos also more narrowly define sexual harassment as an act “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it “denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity,” NBC reports. Under the Obama administration sexual harassment was less-specific, defined as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”

The Trump Administration has made changes to the law since taking office in 2017. The most recent changes come after advocates for accused students argued the law under the Obama Administration was unfair. DeVos has since pledged to prioritize the development of a “workable, effective and fair system.”

  • Changes to Title IX are outlined in a (very long) document here.
  • A shorter list of the law’s “key provisions” were shared by the U.S. Department of Education here.

Title IX has garnered attention in recent politics amid widespread reports of sexual assaults on college campuses -- including in the case against Larry Nassar at Michigan State University.

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