The latest step backwards from progress made under President Barack Obama comes from the Trump Education Department. President Donald Trump, who was caught on tape bragging about groping women, plans to undo guidelines that President Obama established to aggressively police sexual misconduct on school campuses.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday called for changes to the guidelines because the Obama administration diminished the rights of the accused in its attempt to protect sexual assault victims.
Addressing faculty and students at George Mason University, DeVos said, “The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the victim only creates more victims,” according to a U.S. Department of Education statement.
In an interview with CBS News after her speech, the secretary confirmed that she’s planning to rescind the Obama-era rules.
“Well, that’s the intention, and we’ve begun the process to do so,” DeVos told CBS.
President Obama’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) interpreted Title IX, a 1972 federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, to include the protection of female students from sexual assault and harassment.
In 2011, OCR issued a letter directing colleges and K-12 schools that receive federal funding to vigorously investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct allegations. The Obama guidelines lowered the evidence standard to a “preponderance of the evidence,” which makes it easier for victims to prove their case.
The Washington Post said DeVos “repeatedly emphasized” that the Obama rules failed to protect the rights of the accused.
That view is unwelcomed by many. The Post reported that demonstrators gathered outside the auditorium and denounced DeVos’ plans.
Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, told The Post that DeVos’ speech was “a blunt attack on survivors of sexual assault. . . . It sends a frightening message to all students: your government does not have your back if your rights are violated.”
Many more critics weighed in on social media.
DeVos said her department will hold public hearings to gather input before making guideline changes.