DeVos proposes overhaul to campus reporting of sexual misconduct

NBC: Millions Spent on Marshals Service Security Detail for DeVos

DeVos rescinded an important guidance letter in September 2017, declaring that "the era of "rule by letter" was over.

The new rules also would adopt the U.S. Supreme Court's definition of sexual harassment, which requires conduct to be so severe, pervasive and "objectively offensive" that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity. College officials declined our interview requests but provided a statement.

Students accused of misconduct would be allowed to review and respond to all evidence collected by the school, have a presumption of innocence throughout the disciplinary process and cross-examine their accusers indirectly through a representative.

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Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex within the education system. The incident must also have taken place within a school's programs or activities for the school to be required to respond to the allegations.

The new rules do offer rights to the accuser as well as the accused, including requiring that the school offer the accuser supportive measures even if they don't file an official complaint.

"We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it while ensuring a fair grievance process", she added. "Those are not mutually exclusive ideas", she said. "They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function", DeVos said in a press release. "They happen at parties, on Sixth street (and) trying to get home from parties". Missteps could bring federal investigations that often last years, with penalties as high as a total loss of federal funding.

But the response from victim advocates and women's groups was less positive. Some colleges complained that the rules were too complex and could be overly burdensome.

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The proposed rules, posted online, are subject to public comment for 60 days.

Whaley said that though she believes it would be inappropriate for her office to make a public comment, she would be sending Gonzaga students a link to the public comment website. The school must have "actual knowledge" of the allegations.

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. "With sexual assaults already under-reported and routinely ignored, these new rules will make campuses dramatically more unsafe".

"The potential is there", she said.

"Secretary DeVos' long-awaited rewrite of Title IX enforcement regulation is worse than we thought".

Rep. Bobby Scott, the likely incoming chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, in a statement urged the administration to scrap the proposal, calling it a "damaging setback for our efforts to prevent campus sexual harassment and assault". Especially vulnerable under the new rules are transgender students, who experience higher rates of sexual harassment and violence than their peers.

Universities must permit cross-examination of any party or witness by the opposing party's advisor, but not by the party him/herself. Furthermore, colleges and universities would not be obligated to investigate reports when the alleged victim doesn't want them to. This means offering class schedule changes, counseling and dorm room reassignments, among other things.

Under the proposed regulations, universities would no longer be allowed to investigate allegations of sexual harassment that occurred off-campus. They could continue to use the current lower standard of a "preponderance of evidence" only if they also used it in other campus misconduct cases.

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