The U.S. Education Department on Wednesday finalized campus sexual assault rules that bolster the rights of the accused, reduce legal liabilities for schools and colleges, and narrow the scope of cases schools will be required to investigate.
The change announced by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reshapes the way the nation’s schools respond to complaints of sexual misconduct. It is meant to replace policies from the Obama administration that DeVos previously revoked, saying they pressured schools to deny the rights of accused students. “Today we release a final rule that recognizes we can continue to combat sexual misconduct without abandoning our core values of fairness, presumption of innocence and due process," she said. "This empowers survivors with more tools than ever before." Democrats and education groups had asked DeVos to delay any changes until after the coronavirus pandemic, saying colleges don’t have time to implement new federal rules while they respond to the crisis.
The new rules appear to be consistent with much of what was originally proposed in 2018, but also set a more specific definition of what constitutes sexual assault and require that colleges and universities hold live hearings during which the victim and defendant would be allowed to cross-examine one another. K-12 schools have the option to hold live hearings as well, though it is not required. In order for a school to be found legally liable under the new rules, there would need to be evidence that the school was “deliberately indifferent” in following directives for providing resources for the victim and investigating the complaint fairly.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll debate the finalized rules and talk about the practical and legal implications for students, schools and administrators.
With files from the Associated Press
Jenna Parker, partner at Hathaway Parker based in Los Angeles; she specializes in Title IX cases and has represented students and others accused of sexual misconduct
Michele Dauber, professor of Law and Sociology at Stanford University; chair of the “Enough is Enough Voter Project,” a political action committee that advocates for making violence against women a voting issue; she helped revise Stanford’s policy on sexual assault; she tweets @mldauber