Betsy DeVos Wants to Rescind Title IX Protection for Sexual Assault Survivors. Here’s What That Means.
Betsy DeVos just confirmed what many had suspected: The Trump White House is veering away from Obama-era Title IX protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses.
Speaking Thursday at George Mason University’s Law School in Arlington, Va., the U.S. Secretary of Education announced that “the era of rule by letter is over.”
The letter she was referring to is the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL)—another name for the 2011 Title IX Guidance. Not to be confused with Title IX itself, the Obama-era directive focuses on how sexual harassment creates a hostile educational environment. For the purposes of a Department of Education (DOE) investigation, “one single instance of sexual violence is sufficient to qualify as creating a hostile educational environment,” according to anti-sexual violence organization KnowYourIX.
Title IX, on the other hand, is a 1972 law that addresses gender equality on campus. It requires that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
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In a speech that lasted nearly three-quarters of an hour, DeVos outlined the many issues that she sees with the 2011 directive. Her main points against it:
- Because the guidelines don’t require that those accused of sexual assault be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they lack due process, as required by U.S. law. “The accused must know that guilt is not predetermined,” DeVos said.
- School administrators, who often play the roles of juries and judges when it comes to determining whether sexual assault took place, are ill-equipped to do so: “There’s a competency gap here.”
- Schools are spending more time on data collection for sexual cases than on creating policies to stop them. “The Office for Civil Rights [a sub-branch of the DOE that enforces Title IX regulations] has terrified schools,” she said, suggesting that as a result, schools are “overreaching.”
While DeVos enumerated the ways in which the DCL “comes up far too short for far too many students,” she did not announce any new initiatives to take its place. Instead, she said the DOE will be launching a “transparent notice and comment process” in order to “seek public feedback and combine institutional and expert knowledge.”
She did not address what will happen to victims of campus assault in the interim, as they will presumably lose protections under the DCL, but a new policy has yet to be implemented.
The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment. Fortune will update this story with any response.