WASHINGTON (AP) — The Education Department’s civil rights chief apologized Wednesday for saying 90 percent of campus sexual assault claims stem from both participants being drunk and that the rights of the accused are too often ignored.
“What I said was flippant, and I am sorry,” Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement. “All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously — which has always been my position and will always be the position of this department.”
She was quoted in The New York Times on Wednesday as saying rules imposed under President Barack Obama have resulted in many false accusations under the federal law known as Title IX.
In most investigations, she is quoted as saying, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”
“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,'” Jackson is quoted as saying in an interview.
In her statement of apology, Jackson said she was a rape survivor. “I would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience,” she said. “My words in The New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates.”
Jackson’s remarks came on the eve of a daylong series of meetings Thursday with people who say they are assault survivors, those who have been accused, school administrators and parents as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decides the federal government’s role in such cases. At issue is the impact of the Obama administration’s stepped-up enforcement of Title IX.
Advocates for assault survivors who have spent years trying to get schools to take victims and a “rape culture” seriously worry that DeVos’ meetings Thursday are really a preview for a rollback of Obama’s guidance, which said sexual assault is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX for schools that receive federal funding.
But groups representing people who say they have been falsely accused suggest the Obama-era guidance weighted campus justice systems in favor of those alleging sexual violence. Jackson said in the Times interview that investigations have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student.”
Many of those who want Obama’s guidance reversed have said they want assault cases referred to law enforcement.