Citing overreach and lack of due process, DeVos backs off Obama-era campus sexual assault procedures

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the sexual assault policies imposed on colleges by the Obama White House will be redrawn.

In a retreat from the aggressive policies on campus sexual assault embraced by the U.S. Department of Education under Barack Obama, Betsy DeVos today announced her agency would draw up new guidelines for the nation’s colleges saying, “…the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students… the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students.”

The Secretary of Education contends the approach advocated by the agency had trampled the rights of the accused and protracted the proceedings to the detriment of the victims as well. She pledged to work  to develop a “workable, effective and fair system.”

Her plans to replace the existing guidelines drew immediate fire from women’s advocates, who have fought to make colleges view sexual assaults as serious crimes.

“Don’t be duped by today’s announcement. What seems procedural is a blunt attack on survivors of sexual assault. It will discourage schools from taking steps to comply with the law — just at the moment when they are finally working to get it right. And it sends a frightening message to all students:  your government does not have your back if your rights are violated. This misguided approach signals a green light to sweep sexual assault further under the rug. We refuse to return to the days when schools could mistreat survivors with impunity,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center

Here is the ED excerpt of DeVos’ remarks today to students and faculty at George Mason University:

Let me be clear at the outset: acts of sexual misconduct are reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable. They are 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. One person denied due process is one too many. …

There is no way to avoid the devastating reality of campus sexual misconduct: lives have been lost. Lives of victims. And lives of the accused. …

We need to remember that we’re not just talking about faceless “cases.”  We are talking about people’s lives. Everything we do must recognize this before anything else. …

[T]he truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students. Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.

The current failed system left one student to fend for herself at a university disciplinary hearing. Without any legal training whatsoever, she had to prepare an opening statement, fix exhibits and find witnesses.

“I don’t think it’s the rape that makes the person a victim,” the student told a reporter. She said it is the failure of the system that turns a survivor into a victim. …

Washington’s push to require schools to establish these quasi-legal structures to address sexual misconduct comes up short for far too many students. The current system hasn’t won widespread support, nor has it inspired confidence in its so-called judgments. …

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. …

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 un-elected and un-accountable political appointees. …

Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students. …

The era of “rule by letter” is over.

Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach. With the heavy hand of Washington tipping the balance of her scale, the sad reality is that Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today. …

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. …

A better way means that due process is not an abstract legal principle only discussed in lecture halls. 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.

The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the “victim” only creates more victims. …

In order to ensure that America’s schools employ clear, equitable, just and fair procedures that inspire trust and confidence, we will launch a notice-and-comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties in developing a better way.

We will seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise and the experiences of students to replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system. …

This is not about letting institutions off the hook. They still have important work to do.

A survivor told me that she is tired of feeling like the burden of ensuring her school addresses Title IX falls on her shoulders.

She is right. The burden is not hers, nor is it any student’s burden. …

The truth is: we must do better… for each other and with each other.

The full text of the Secretary’s remarks can be found here.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
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POV1948
POV1948

Makes no more sense for school administrators to handle sex crime allegations than murder.  

Tcope
Tcope

Sexual assault is a terrible crime. College bureaucrats have little experience in dealing with these situations. Guess who does have the training to deal with sexual crimes, the police. Have the colleges call the local police and turn the situation over to them. We need to get colleges out of the business of punishing criminals.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”


– John Adams

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

The Obama Administration's response to a problem was to circumvent Congress and neglect normal rule-making procedures, such as soliciting public comment.

Instead it simply jammed the policy through to appease a hard-left constituency. The result, points out the Wall Street Journal, has been a travesty of injustice -- and a sea of lawsuits.

Jared Thiele
Jared Thiele

Lack of due process? They're still given their right to a speedy trial...

Michael McIntyre
Michael McIntyre

Between this and Campus Carry, I can't think of a better time to send my daughter to college! #sarcasm

Nichelle Young
Nichelle Young

This administration is a total mess. Why would this idiot (who knows nothing about true education) undo this?

BTC
BTC

'Idiot' being the operative word here...

Barry Pendry
Barry Pendry

Trump doesn’t care about anyone..he just wants to undo all things Obama.

Todd Hall
Todd Hall

I'm thankful that at least some people still believe in due process and the presumption of innocence, especially when it comes to serious crimes like sexual assault.

Amy Parks
Amy Parks

Yeah because only about 2% of rapes is actually a false accusation so by all means continue to victimize the victims and protect the accusers so they can play ball! !

Kim Kelley
Kim Kelley

Your willfull ignorance is appalling. Educate yourself. SMDH

Astropig
Astropig

Hallelujah! Our government is choosing the rule of law over mob justice.There are strong laws in place to punish rapists and a justice system to ensure that innocent defendants get their day in court.Let's use them.


Even a lot of "progressives" are having second thoughts about the kangaroo court -nature of these campus tribunals:


https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/the-uncomfortable-truth-about-campus-rape-policy/538974/

 (warning- you may not want to read this article to your sunday school class or your saintly grandmother because it's written for an adult readership)


It doesn't get any more liberal than The Atlantic,and even they are uncomfortable with the injustices being perpetrated by zealous activist/feminists.


This is great news for people that still believe in the American Way.

bu22
bu22

@Falcaints @Astropig  Astropig believes in the US Constitution.  And yes, most countries in the world don't follow that narrow path designed by the Founding Fathers.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I'm sending my twin girls to college with Rottweilers and baseball bats. For guys like Bob and Timmy.

Amber McCollum
Amber McCollum

Why even take this on? What I mean is who was negatively impacted by this policy? Aren't there others issues to tackle versus trying to figure out how to undo all past policies? Why not try to make a statement by moving forward with policies that are important to you, that you feel Americans voted to improve, versus finding how to undo everything? This is an issue for all politics now. What was done by previous administrations were done so because they were voted into office. When someone new is voted in then those issues should be dealt with. We can't go on forever undoing everything anyone else has done. We have to find a way to make improvements and keep moving.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"We can't go on forever undoing everything anyone else has done. "


Sure. Try selling that to liberals and progressives, who by their very political nature SEEK to undo what has been done before.

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

Schools risk violating the rights of the accused, law enforcement should handle these cases.

Starik
Starik

I can't believe the administration did something right. Rape cases, wherever they occur, should be handled by a competent police agency and the courts. It's too serious a crime to be handled by schools. 

Bob Doty
Bob Doty

I read articles like this and think of the Duke University disaster. Obviously, something has to be done.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

The Duke case was different in that the victim was not a student at Duke. So, right from the start, it was handled by police.The university took action in that case against the students charged and later exonerated, but the actual investigation and charging was done by police. The issue here is how campuses investigate sexual assault claims by one student against another.

Tim Wilson
Tim Wilson

Bob, Don't mess with the Atlanta Urinal and Constipation....

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Or facts. Bob. Neither you or Timmy can handle them.

How old are you Tim 12?

weetamoe
weetamoe

There are other cases--attention seeking girls like Lena Dunham and "mattress girl" have made it sport to put young men in the crosshairs of frustrated females.

Starik
Starik

Being a university student doesn't, and shouldn't mean a person is exempt from criminal laws. What, exactly qualifies schools at any level to adjudicate them?

Melanie McClellan
Melanie McClellan

The Duke case happened 5 years prior to the process currently required.