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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 8, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 36
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back Title IX protections against sexual assault
Section One
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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back Title IX protections against sexual assault

Sen. Patty Murray denounces move

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on September 7 that she was rolling back Obama-era guidelines designed to protect students from sexual assault and harassment.

The guidance from the Obama administration was designed to outline how schools receiving federal money - almost all public schools and most private schools - implemented Title IX, a federal law forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex.

Obama's guidelines had 'failed,' DeVos said in a speech, and she would replace them with 'a workable, effective, and fair system' that explicitly takes into account the rights of those accused of sexual assault.

According to DeVos, teachers had complained that the Obama-era guidelines created 'kangaroo courts,' in which the rights of defendants - mainly men accused of accosting, assaulting, or raping women - were set aside. These procedures forced defendants to go to court to uphold their innocence she said.

'No student should be forced to sue their way to due process,' she added.

In spite of DeVos's claim that teachers support her move, the National Education Association (NEA) - which represents three million teachers - denounced her action.

'Educators across the nation are appalled that the Department of Education has decided to weaken protections for students who survive campus sexual assault or harassment,' the union said in a statement.

'This decision offends our collective conscience and conflicts with the basic values of equality, safety, and respect that we teach our students every day. Title IX is essential to protect each student's right to equal access to education and an educational experience free from violence.

'The 2011 US Office of Civil Rights guidance says that both the survivor and the accused have the same rights and must be treated equally during all proceedings. Today's announcement is another example of a Trump-DeVos agenda that scorns respect for survivors, including Secretary DeVos's own recent meeting with radical anti-woman activists and the President's own recorded sexual assault confession during the campaign.'

The NEA was joined by Washington's senior senator, Patty Murray, who accused DeVos of making it harder for survivors of sexual assault to get justice.

'Secretary DeVos decided today to continue a pattern of undermining survivors' rights, once again showing a clear lack of understanding or empathy for the millions of students who have experienced sexual violence on campus,' Murray said.

'Let's be clear: Secretary DeVos just made an open invitation to colleges to once again sweep this national epidemic under the rug, which could discourage women and men on campuses across the country from reporting sexual assault and deprive survivors of the justice they deserve. Colleges must continue to take campus sexual violence seriously, and I urge Secretary DeVos to reconsider this harmful step backward and instead start supporting survivors and working to combat this national crisis.'

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also criticized DeVos's move.

'With today's announcement, Betsy DeVos is insinuating that she would prefer to take America back to a time when it was more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to receive justice,' said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the HRC.

'For the LGBTQ community, which faces disproportionate levels of sexual assault and violence, this decision sends a strong signal that the US Department of Education will not use its full power to protect them from harm. This signal is only amplified and worsened by the actions the department took earlier this year, when it callously rescinded guidance aimed at protecting transgender students.'

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