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Report: Dept. of Education updating sexual misconduct rules to cement the rights of the accused

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is rolling out a proposal for enforcing sexual misconduct allegations, which will grant greater protections for the rights of the accused. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education is rolling out new rules for enforcing sexual misconduct allegations, which will grant greater protections for the rights of the accused.

How's that?

Under the proposed new rules — a draft of which were leaked to the Times — schools would be required to implement due process protections during investigations, such as adding "the ability for victims and their accused perpetrators to request evidence from each other and to cross-examine each other."

"The rules also allow the complainant and the accused to have access to any evidence obtained during the investigation," according to the Times.

Schools would also be allowed to raise the evidentiary standard from the currently mandated "preponderance of evidence" to "clear and convincing" evidence in determining whether respondents are responsible for an alleged offense. The proposed system is aimed at stressing that "all students are considered innocent until proven guilty," according to Reason, which confirmed the changes outlined by the Times.

If adopted, the department's proposed rules would also grant further protections for schools, "holding schools accountable only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and for conduct said to have occurred on their campuses. They would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints," the Times reported.

What brought this on?

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced last year that her Department would be looking at an overhaul of the current Title IX rules for campus justice systems.

In a speech at George Mason University, DeVos slammed the Obama administration's regulatory guidance.

"The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students," she said in September 2017. "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.

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

Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill responded Wednesday evening to a Washington Post inquiry about the proposed changes, writing in an email: "We are in the midst of a deliberative process." She called reports about the changes "premature and speculative."

One last thing…
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