Victims’ and women’s right groups are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, saying rules she established in September to manage college campus sexual assault complaints violate federal law.
DeVos issued the guidelines to help colleges navigate sexual assault complaints and manage investigations under Title IX. The move rescinded guidance instituted by the Obama administration.
Under federal law, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination and governs the rules on investigating sexual assault on campus.
The New York Times reported Thursday that three organizations filed the complaint in the Northern District of California, saying the guidance issued by DeVos had a “chilling effect” on sexual assault investigations on campuses.
The organizations claim accusers have been less inclined to pursue sexual assault cases and colleges have demonstrated a lack of urgency and clarity in pursuing them.
One of DeVos’ main concerns when announcing the new changes was that previous guidance under the Obama administration denied proper due process to those accused of sexual assault on campuses.
DeVos, a Holland native, said in her announcement on Sept. 4 that she heard several stories from alleged victims and assailants on how colleges and universities were mishandling investigations.
“Washington’s push to require schools to establish these quasi-legal structures to address sexual misconduct comes up short for far too many students,” DeVos said. “The current system hasn’t won widespread support, nor has it inspired confidence in its so-called judgments. The results of the current approach? Everyone loses.”
In The Sentinel’s series investigating Title IX’s effect on college campuses, Hope College’s Title IX coordinator Sara Dorer said balancing the rights of victim and accuser has oscillated since Title IX’s inception in 1972.
“For a while in a lot of schools, there wasn’t enough support given to the victim,” Dorer said. “So we’ve seen a shift in the field since then. Prior to that, we absolutely were seeing institutions that were tipped in the scales towards the responding, accused party, not equal rights for victims.”