Early Thursday afternoon, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will make an announcement regarding changes to Title IX enforcement.


DeVos mentioned the importance of due process and indicated a commitment to the rights of victims. From the WaEX:

“For too long, rather than engage the public on controversial issues, the department’s Office for Civil Rights has issued letters from the desks of unelected and unaccountable political appointees,” DeVos said in her prepared remarks, referring to the Obama administration’s decision to issue significant directives more than once in the form of “dear colleague” letters from the Education Department.

“The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over,” she declared.

The secretary referred to “acts of sexual misconduct” as “acts of cowardice and personal weakness, often thinly disguised as strength and power.”

“One assault is one too many. One aggressive act of harassment is one too many,” DeVos remarked, continuing to add, “[o]ne person denied due process is one too many,” in a critical nod to students who struggled to receive fair hearings from their schools under the previous approach.

Due process was a key focus of the secretary’s address. Obama-era guidelines laid out in a 2011 “dear colleague” letter guided schools to adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard when adjudicating the guilt of an accused offender.

“Due process is the foundation of any system of justice that seeks a fair outcome. Due process either protects everyone, or it protects no one,” DeVos said. “The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the ‘victim’ only creates more victims.”

The secretary slammed the Obama administration for “[weaponizing]” the department’s Office of Civil Rights. Through “intimidation and coercion,” DeVos argued, her predecessors “pushed schools to overreach.”

“Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined. These are non-negotiable principles,” she emphasized.

DeVos argued the previous system disadvantaged both survivors and students battling false allegations. “Survivors aren’t well-served when they are re-traumatized with appeal after appeal because the failed system failed the accused. And no student should be forced to sue their way to due process,” she noted.

Though DeVos stopped short of explicitly saying the policies outlined in the Obama administration’s contested 2011 letter were rescinded, she announced the department was launching “a notice-and-comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties in developing a better way,” ushering in a new era for higher education.

Title IX has become the scourge of many college campuses and has effectively destroyed due process for students, especially those accused of sexual assault. Under Title IX, colleges have created their own justice systems wherein the accused are often punished or scorned simply because they’ve been accused, regardless of whether the accusations prove true (an issue we’ve covered at length here at Legal Insurrection).

What began as a means to protect campus goers from sexual assault has deteriorated into a complete misunderstanding of the term. Now, if a young woman willingly engages in a sexual act while drunk or high and later regrets that decision, they are able to and often do allege the other party has committed sexual assault.

Current Title IX enforcement has allowed the propagation of this sort of story, which we’ve heard countless times in various venues with little variation and all at the cost of the other party who believed they were engaging in a consensual act.

Worse still, in most of these cases where law enforcement is brought in, no charges are filed, but the accused is later punished by campus authorities.

The Atlantic has a great piece about this which I would encourage checking out for more detailed context.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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