Schools and colleges face a major overhaul of how they must handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday rebuffed a push to delay final regulations until the national coronavirus emergency is over.
One of the biggest changes for colleges is a requirement that they respond to complaints with courtroom-like hearings where representatives for the accused and the alleged victim can call witnesses and challenge their credibility. The hearings, which can occur live or virtually, will be optional for K-12 schools.
“Title IX officers don’t have more to do during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact they have less to do because students aren’t on campus and therefore aren’t being victimized on campus,” said Jennifer Braceras, director of the Independent Women’s Law Center and a former commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “The whole notion that the federal government should somehow delay due process for students, because of the coronavirus pandemic is just a complete ruse.”
The new rule has been among DeVos’ most hotly contested moves in office, because the draft version would allow for victims to be cross-examined, raise the standard of proof in such cases and let schools offer mediation. Schools have also pushed back, saying the proposal would make disciplinary hearings into quasi-courtrooms.
But the proposal has been cheered by advocates for the accused, as well as conservatives and some civil liberties groups, who argued the guidance from the Obama administration allowed schools to steamroll due process rights of the accused.
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