On May 6, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced significant changes to Title IX regulations. The updates were informed by years of research and by reviewing statements made by students, advocates, school administrators, and various others. The purpose behind the changes is to provide a more balanced process for handling sexual assault claims on college campuses, ensuring that survivors' accounts are taken seriously and that the accused are afforded their due process protections.
DeVos said, "Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault. This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process."
Educational institutions have until August 14, 2020, to incorporate the new regulations into their policies.
What Is Title IX?
Enacted in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits sex-based discrimination at educational institutions receiving federal funding. This includes K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities.
Courts have long held that sexual harassment and assault are forms of sexual discrimination. When such conduct occurs in an educational setting, administrators must take swift action to address and remedy it.
What Are the Changes to Title IX?
The new rules require schools to change the way allegations of campus sexual assault are handled.
A few of the updates include:
- Cross-examination requirements: Under the new Title IX provisions, the accused have the right to cross-examine those bringing claims against them. The process is conducted not by the student, but by an adviser or lawyer.
- Investigations for certain off-campus events: Administrators at colleges and universities must respond to claims of sexual assault that occurred off-campus only if the alleged incident happened at a location officially used by the institution.
- Choice of standard of proof: Previously, colleges would determine cases of sexual assault based on a "preponderance of the evidence." Under the new rules, the institutions can choose between that or the "clear and convincing" standard. Whichever is selected, the institute must apply it to all cases, regardless of whether the matter involves a student or faculty.
- Narrower definition of sexual harassment: Under the new rules, sexual harassment is defined as quid pro quo harassment; "any unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal educational access"; and sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking.
- Requirements for overseas allegations: If a sexual assault incident happened outside of the U.S., for example, during a study abroad program, the college is not required to investigate the claim. However, it can apply its policies if it chooses to.
Criticism of the Changes
Although the changes to Title IX attempt to create greater fairness in a system seemingly against those accused of campus sexual assault, they have not been met without criticism. Opponents of the new regulations state that the requirements would make it difficult for survivors to report incidents. For instance, the prospect of being cross-examined may deter some students because they want to avoid reliving the trauma.
At Drehner Law, we recognize the importance of survivors coming forward about instances of sexual assault. However, we also want to ensure those accused of such offenses are given due process and are not penalized because of faulty systems. That is why we stand up for individuals facing allegations. If you are involved in a Title IX matter in Houston, call us at (832) 558-7798 or contact us online today.