U.S. Department of Education announces new regulations to address sexual misconduct

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Betsy DeVos to alter sexual misconduct guidelines to bolster rights of accused

Under the proposal, fewer allegations would be considered sexual harassment and schools would be responsible only for investigating incidents that are part of campus programs and activities and that were properly reported.

"Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined", Ms. DeVos said.

"With this latest proposal, President Trump and Secretary DeVos are trying to take another step toward sweeping the scourge of sexual assault under the rug, weakening protections for students and survivors, and allowing colleges and universities to shirk their responsibility to keep students safe and in some cases, exempt themselves from their obligations under Title IX altogether without the Department even knowing", Murray said in a statement.

The proposed regulations would also require schools to respond fairly and meaningfully to all reports of sexual harassment and provide supportive measures to victims; and permit cross-examination between both parties through an adviser after a report has been filed.

The new proposal adds protections for accused students, giving them a presumption of innocence throughout the disciplinary process and the right to review all evidence a school collects. The new regulations also permit the use of informal resolution processes to resolve sexual misconduct allegations if the parties agree.

The rights of those accused of sexual assault and harassment at USA colleges are to be boosted under new proposals.

In a time where sexual harassment has been more openly discussed in schools and the workplace under movements like #MeToo, researchers have found that only 2-10 percent of sexual assault victims have made false accusations. The Obama era rules allowed the equivalent of a sexual harassment trial for anything someone took offense at, including suggestive speech.

Requiring schools to choose one standard for deciding all cases, either a simple "preponderance of the evidence", as used at BU now, or the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence".

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The University of Minnesota has dealt with high profile sexual assault investigations that stemmed from off-campus incidents.

Once DeVos' policies are published in the Federal Register - a journal of the U.S. government that publishes all proposed government regulations - the rule will be open for public comment for 60 days, during which individuals and institutions can provide feedback. DeVos wants schools to have a higher standard when considering whether to punish the accused; her proposal would make officials abide by a "clear and convincing" standard, meaning the sexual-harassment claim would have to be highly probable for anything to be done about it.

"It would encourage schools to just stick their heads in the sand", she said. Schools today have to submit a formal written request in advance for religious accommodation by spelling out which regulations they were seeking exemption from and the religious basis for that request. But yes, higher standard. Under Obama-era rules, a school is deemed liable if it "reasonably should [have]" known about an assault.

The definition of sexual misconduct that administrators would be obligated to investigate would be narrowed, reflecting frustrations from right-wing politicians at the Obama administration's interpretation of federal gender-based protections under Title IX.

Earlier this month, 80 people who said they were sexually abused by one of three doctors - Larry Nassar of Michigan State University, George Tyndall of the University of Southern California and Richard Strauss of Ohio State University - sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with a unified message: Don't give schools more control over how they investigate sexual assault allegations.

Univesrity at Buffalo drector of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Sharon Nolan Weiss, tells WBFO News it's too soon to say how this will impact the way the University deals with cases. According to an EPA inspector general's report released September 4, the cost was deemed "not justified" as it was higher than the costs to protect other EPA administrators.

According to the proposal, the new regulation would make it so that intervention on behalf of the University would be required only in cases when the misconduct is severe enough to carry negative consequences for an individual's access to education or participation in activities at a federally funded institution.

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