Betsy DeVos proposed new guidelines for sexual assault in schools—and they protect the accused

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has frequently come under fire for her approach to campus sexual misconduct, even being sued for sexual assault policy changes in January. And today, November 16th, she has officially proposed changes to the Title IX guidelines concerning how colleges address sexual misconduct on campuses—in order to better protect the accusedThe Associated Press reports that if DeVos’s new rules take effect, accused students will be granted the right to review evidence gathered against them and will be able to cross-examine their accusers through a representative.

The new guidelines also make it harder to report sexual misconduct in the first place. Schools would only have to investigate incidents that occur on campus or somewhere overseen by the school, and misconduct would have to be reported to specific campus officials. ABC News also notes that DeVos has proposed changing the definition of “sexual harassment” to refer to unwanted sexual behavior “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a recipient’s education program or activity.”

According to ABC, the public will be able to comment on these rules for 60 days, after which the department will decide whether or not to enact them.

In response to the proposed changes, Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, issued a statement calling out the Trump administration’s “blatant contempt for survivors.”

"If these draft rules go into effect, schools will become more dangerous for all students and more schools will shield harassers and rapists," her statement reads. "These rules will also create environments that discourage students from reporting their assaults and harassment, which means fewer survivors will receive the support that allows them to overcome their trauma and succeed the school. Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education, hear us loud and clear: attacks on Title IX are attacks on students’ dignity and safety – and we will not tolerate it."

The New York Times originally reported on DeVos’s plan in August, but at the time, a Department of Education spokesperson declined to comment on the changes because the department was “in the midst of a deliberative process.”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that only 2-10% of accusations are false, and the majority of sexual assaults (63%) go unreported. With these statistics in mind, it’s apparent that DeVos’s reforms are based on a gross misinterpretation of the reality of sexual misconduct, and could ultimately hurt survivors. We need to believe people who say they’ve experienced sexual harassment or assault. If you oppose these changes, leave a comment for the government here as soon as the report is available.

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