Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Thursday that the Trump administration intends on revamping an Obama-era directive on sexual assault at schools to better balance the rights of victims with those of the accused.
“The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” DeVos said. “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.”
The 2011 guidelines created by the Obama administration threatened loss of funding for schools that did not adequately provide the means for students to feel protected from harassment and assault, which the administration claimed was mandated by Title IX, the 1972 sexual discrimination law.
But critics say the resulting policies, which some schools had to write and re-write to be in compliance, strong-armed the accused, led to the exaggeration of small issues, and eroded due process.
“Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students,” DeVos charged.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a civil liberties group, issued a report earlier this week finding that approximately three-quarters of the country's top 53 universities “do not even guarantee students that they will be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
As an example of such wrongdoing, proponents of DeVos's new path may point to the recent case of a USC student, Zoe Katz, who claimed the school's Title IX office “misled, harassed, threatened, and discriminated against” her after it pressured her to admit that her boyfriend, Matt Boermeester, mistreated her, which both she and he repeatedly denied, according to the L.A. Times.
Nevertheless, Boermeester, who kicked the game-winning field goal for USC during last year's Rose Bowl, was suspended, barred from campus, prevented from meeting with the football team, and ordered to have no further contact with Katz, who called the whole investigation “horrible and unjust,” the L.A. Times reported.
Listen to DeVos's comments below.