U.S. withdrawal of campus sexual assault rules takes effect Friday after judge ruling – National


A federal judge on Wednesday authorized the U.S. Department of Education to move forward with new rules governing how schools and universities respond to complaints of sexual assault.The rules, which take effect Friday, expand the rights of defendants, narrow the definition of sexual harassment and reduce the scope of cases schools are required to investigate, among other changes.

In a lawsuit challenging the rules, attorneys general for 17 states and the District of Columbia argued that the policy would prevent schools from investigating certain complaints of sexual abuse and discourage students from reporting assaults.

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“As a result, fewer complaints of sexual harassment will be filed, and schools will be less well equipped to protect the safety of their students and rid their programs and activities of the pernicious effects of gender discrimination,” the lawsuit said.

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But US District Judge Carl. J. Nichols rejected these arguments.

“Complainants are free to investigate and punish as violations of their codes of conduct or behavior of state law that does not meet the new definition of sexual harassment under the final rule,” said writes Nichols.

He also dismissed the argument that the rules would result in high costs for schools and limit their ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Biden denounces sexual assault on US college campuses

Joe Biden denounces sexual assault on US college campuses

“The Court recognizes the obvious seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “In fact, for these and other reasons, a later effective date might have been a preferable political decision. ”

Still, he said, the education ministry took the pandemic into account when it released the new rules, and schools have long known that a new policy would be coming.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the ruling was “yet another victory for students and reaffirms that student rights under Title IX go hand in hand with basic US principles of fairness and procedure. regular.

DeVos released its policy on May 6 after rescinding previous Obama administration guidelines in 2017. Victim advocates say the 2017 rules forced colleges to deal with sexual abuse after ignoring it for years. But DeVos said the guidelines turned campus disciplinary committees into “kangaroo courts” that were too quick to punish accused students.

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DeVos’ rules, which carry the weight of law, tell schools how to implement Title IX, the 1972 law banning sex discrimination in education.

As part of its overhaul, the definition of sexual harassment is restricted to “unwanted conduct deemed by a reasonable person to be so serious, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it denies a person access to educational programs or activities. ‘school.

The policy will now require colleges to investigate complaints only if they are reported to certain officials, and schools can only be held accountable for the mismanagement of complaints if they have acted with “willful indifference.” Opponents also opposed a provision allowing students to question each other through representatives in live hearings.

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DeVos said on Wednesday that the rules require schools to “act meaningfully to support survivors of sexual misconduct without sacrificing important safeguards to protect free speech and provide all students with a transparent and reliable process.”

College Campus Sexual Violence Report Calls for Culture Change

College Campus Sexual Violence Report Calls for Culture Change

The rule-challenging case was led by attorneys general in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California, with support from 17 states and the District of Columbia.

“We are disappointed that the court has dismissed our motion to stay the new Title IX rule while our litigation is ongoing,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “But our commitment to the right of every student in Pennsylvania to a safe and fair education has not wavered, and our challenge to Secretary DeVos’ illegal regime is not over, it is only the first step in a long process.

The challenge was supported by the American Council on Education, an association of university presidents, as well as 24 other higher education organizations. In a June legal note, the groups said the policy ordered a “radical change” for colleges but gave them less than three months to implement it.

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“At best, this delay would be unreasonable. But in light of the extraordinary burdens that have been placed on US colleges and universities in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this August 14 implementation deadline is extremely problematic, ”the groups wrote.

Collin Binkley, editor of AP Education, reported from Boston.

© 2020 The Canadian Press


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