United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed changes to campus sexual assault rules at the college and K-12 levels of the education system. These changes have been met with tough resistance from members of the academic world, the ACLU, and the public. This has become such a hot topic of discussion and debate that the federal government reopened public comment on the issue for one day in the middle of February. Public comment was opened for an additional day because the government was concerned a glitch in a website might have turned people away who wanted to comment.
The initial public comment period
The initial public comment period lasted for 60 days and ended on January 30, 2019. A notice from the Federal Register allowed new comments to be submitted on the matter for one day via online posting, in-person delivery or postmarked delivery. During the initial public comment period there were a total of 104,300 letters and messages submitted about the proposed rule changes.
The notice sent out by the Federal Register said that the decision to reopen public comment came out of “abundant caution” due to glitches in related websites. One related website said that public comment had actually closed a day prior to the official closing date.
Jess Davidson, the executive director of End Rape on Campus, said that reopening public comment was necessary. Davidson released the following statement:
“This technical error repeats this administration’s pattern of harm that disproportionately hurts survivors and other communities that face systemic barriers,” Davidson said in a statement. “We pointed out to the department they were violating the law by not giving access to survivors to participate in our democratic processes.”
The comments regarding the proposed changes
The majority of comments submitted from the public about the proposed rule changes oppose the changes, which would be made to the rule known as Title IX. Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in primary and secondary schools as well as college campuses across the country. Title IX also prohibits sexual assault on these school campuses.
The debate at hand over Title IX
The debate over the Title IX rules stem from guidance set forth under the President Barack Obama administration. Advocates for those accused of sexual assault, or misconduct, have argued that the guidance from the Obama administration was not fair to alleged wrongdoers. This is what led DeVos to propose changes to Title IX, claiming that she would create a “workable, effective and fair system.”
On the other side of the debate, advocates for survivors of sexual assault, claim that the proposed changes to Title IX would wind up making students less likely to report abuse. The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken publicly the most in support of sexual assault survivors and against the Title IX proposed changes.
The proposed Title IX changes
The proposed changes to Title IX from DeVos include the following:
- Schools would only investigate a claim if the harassment involved was “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.”
- Schools would not be allowed to investigate a claim of harassment unless it met the threshold noted above.
- Schools only need to respond to a claim of sexual harassment if a student files a complaint with multiple officials of the school.
- Schools would only be held accountable for failing to respond to a sexual harassment claim if they happen to be “deliberately indifferent.”
- Schools would have to follow procedural requirements when it comes to disciplinary hearings, cross-examination, live hearings and provide access to investigators to all evidence collected.
Are you a victim of sexual assault at your college campus? Do you know a family member who was the victim of sexual assault or harassment in California? You have a right to speak up about the abuse you have suffered and protect yourself. Contact the team at Taylor & Ring today or call 310-776-6390 to schedule a consultation with our experienced sexual assault attorneys in Los Angeles.