Earlier this month, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education would be reviewing guidelines put into place by the Obama administration that outlined how college campuses should handle sexual assault cases.
She said in a speech at George Mason University that the department is already in the process of rolling back those guidelines.
Under the Obama administration in 2011, the Office for Civil Rights issued the “Dear Colleague” Letter as a way to set guidelines for the ways public schools would be required to handle sexual assault cases.
The document was championed by former Vice President Joe Biden.
The guidelines mandated that K-12 schools and universities were to use the lowest standard of proof in sexual assault cases, and that accusers in said cases would be able to appeal not-guilty findings.
The Department of Education under Obama clarified that these guidelines were simply made to highlight what schools were already required to do under Title IX - to prohibit discrimination in public schools based on sex.
While many sexual assault survivors praised the Obama administration for the move, many also criticized the administration for allegedly trying to push schools into finding male students guilty, and for overstepping federal boundaries.
DeVos held listening sessions during the summer to hear both sides. She met with both sexual assault survivors and those who are advocating for male students who had been accused. There were nine people in both respective panels.
In her speech at George Mason University, DeVos said, “one rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many.”
She acknowledged that the Obama administration meant well with the Dear Colleague Letter, but then said that “good intentions alone are not enough.”
DeVos’ words sound reasonable at first listen and without much background information, but it’s also important to note that during her listening sessions, DeVos spoke with an equal number of sexual assault survivors, and those who were advocating for the falsely accused.
Current research says that no more than 8 percent of sexual assault allegations are false. If you do the math, this means that each group was inaccurately represented.
Throughout the whole ordeal, DeVos never mentioned exactly how she's planning to remedy the issue. She did say, “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.”
The post highlighted the fact that “sexual assault has lasting effects on survivors,” citing the statistic that “as many as one-third of rape victims may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, and even more experience other long-term physical and mental health effects.”
Biden urged anyone “who has a stake in this fight to step up,” specifically students, parents, faculty and alumni. He pointed out that any rollback of Title IX will hurt those most affected by sexual assault. “Make your views known,” he said.
Biden ended his Facebook post on a hopeful note, saying, “I know that we can continue to change the culture … Students have taken on this fight. Keep fighting. Tell this administration that we refuse to go backwards.”