Title IX has changed in several important ways since President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education. Though the general public has heard fairly negative things about DeVos, most people are unaware of what, exactly, she has done to make life more difficult for students victimized on campuses across the country. In particular, DeVos’ actions affect those who are eligible for rights under Title IX.
DeVos is Making her Presence Known
DeVos has implemented new regulations that will make it surprisingly easy for colleges, universities and other schools to take shortcuts when handling harassment, assault and additional transgressions based on the wording of Title IX. Unfortunately, the wording of the new changes will make it that much more challenging for Title IX administrators to do their job as they used to under President Obama’s guidance. Though thousands of Title IX advocates and others have urged DeVos to roll back the changes, the sad truth is these new guidelines are here to stay for at least a couple more years.
Title IX Changes
Title IX bars discrimination based on one’s sex in the context of an educational setting. This piece of legislation also has protections for those with disabilities. When President Obama was in office, post-secondary institutions were more insistent on investigating sexual harassment claims as well as allegations of assault. Unfortunately, DeVos has been critical of Obama’s guidelines for Title IX. Devos’ Education Department issued new regulations this past November that were different in a number of ways. Schools can now rely on a higher standard of evidence when adjudicating harassment and assault claims. This essentially means it is more difficult to determine if an accused individual is actually responsible for the supposed transgression.
DeVos’ administration also introduced a much more rigid definition of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is now defined as uninvited conduct made on the basis of sex. This conduct must be pervasive and severe to the point that the targeted individual is denied access to the educational institution’s activities or programs. Furthermore, the conduct must qualify as objectively offensive.
Another important change made by the DeVos administration sets forth regulations that make it increasingly challenging to determine if schools are responsible for failing to take action after harassment occurs on school grounds. Obama’s guidance allowed for schools to be held responsible if the administrators should have reasonably known about harassment or assault on campus and did not respond as they should have.
The regulations set forth by DeVos requires that school administrators have actual knowledge of the supposed transgression in order to be found responsible. This alteration might seem like a subtle change in wording yet in reality it will make it that much easier for educational institutions to ignore or at least scale back attempts to prevent assault and harassment. The bottom line is Devos’ changes make it difficult for students to take schools to court for Title IX violations. Those familiar with the nuances of the law and the latest alterations insist it will be nearly impossible for any academic institution to be found responsible for a Title IX violation.
The Other Side of the Story
When Devos’ new Title IX regulations were issued, a two month-long window for notice and comment opened. Plenty of lawyers who represent students accused of violating the rules of Title IX showed their support for the new guidelines. After all, just because a student makes an accusation that another student or school administrator committed assault, sexual harassment or discriminated against a disabled student does not mean that individual is guilty of the charge. However, even unbiased parties are quick to state the changes set forth by DeVos favor academic organizations as opposed to the students who pay the salaries of those institutions’ administrators.
Let’s take a quick look at an example of how institutions of higher learning are responding to the Title IX changes. The University of Michigan recently announced the debut of a brand new policy that allows students accused of harassment or assault to cross-examine the accuser. This is just one small example of how DeVos’ changes to Title IX will change post-secondary education in the years to come.
Legal Help is Available
If you have been assaulted, harassed or discriminated against or if someone has accused you of these transgressions at your school, do not be afraid to ask for help. Our student defense lawyer is here to fiercely represent your interest in and out of court. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.