Trump administration discontinues use of Obama-era campus sexual assault guidance

James McClendon, Advertising Manager

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has continued the onslaught by the Trump Administration against legislation enacted by former President Barack Obama. The education department on Sept. 22, rolled-back the previously used guidance for how colleges and universities, which receive federal funding, should handle sexual assaults and misconduct on their campuses.

Utica College’s director of campus security, Wayne Sullivan, said the process used to identify and investigate these crimes is effective and he has no plans to change the way they are handled.

“We are standing firm,” Sullivan said. “We have an excellent process here for our Title IX investigations. We have an excellent team. Our process is very solid and we are not changing anything. We will continue addressing these issues as we always do. “

In a United States Department of Education press release, DeVos justified the rescinding of the guidance because she believed President Obama failed to create a system which protects the victim and the accused.

“The interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly,” DeVos said. “Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But, the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.”

In 2011, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights proposed that a standard known as “preponderance of evidence” should be used by schools when dealing with sexual violence cases. This standard requires only enough evidence to prove that something is more likely than not to be true, which completely deviated from the previous standard which called for “clear and convincing evidence” to prove guilt or innocence.

While the Office of Civil Rights works on a new set of guidelines, schools are going to be given the option to use either standard.

One of the key aspects of the Obama administration guidance that must still be adhered to is the school’s responsibility to investigate all reported cases, as opposed to just handing them off to local law enforcement.  

Following suit with other Obama-era legislation, like the Affordable Care Act, the guidance was rescinded without a new permanent system or even any clear indication of when one would be put into action. DeVos and the Education Department are currently working on a new system.

“In the coming months, hearing from survivors, campus administrators, parents, students and experts on sexual misconduct will be vital as we work to create a thoughtful rule that will benefit students for years to come,” DeVos said.

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