Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back sexual assault protections
Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced a rollback of Obama-era guidelines on sexual assault.
DeVos announced the rollback at a speech at George Mason University.
She said: “The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students.
“That’s why we must do better, because the current approach isn’t working.”
But no new policies on sexual assault were announced by DeVos to replace the Obama Administration-issued guidelines.
“Our interest is in exploring all alternatives that would help schools meet their Title IX obligations and protect all students,” DeVos added.
“We welcome input and look forward to hearing more ideas.”
In 2011, the Obama administration told colleges and universities that they have an obligation under Title IX to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. If colleges and universities did not meet that obligation, the Obama administration threatened to pull their federal funding.
“If a school knows or reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence and address its effects,” the Obama administration told colleges and universities in a letter.
Former Vice President Joe Biden made campus sexual assault a pillar of his final years in the White House, speaking out in solidarity with victims of campus sexual assault as part of the It’s On Us campaign.
The Obama-era guidelines were heavily criticised by Republicans who said it was a federal Government overreach.
“We know this much to be true: One rape is one too many; one assault is one too many; one aggressive act of harassment is one too many; one person denied due process is one too many,” DeVos continued.
Earlier this year DeVos gave equal time to a ‘men’s rights’ group as she gave to survivors of sexual assault on campus to discuss the issue.
The Education Secretary met with the National Coalition for Men, the Advocate reports, along with male students accused of sexual assault or rape.
DeVos met with the groups to discuss the now defunct Title IX and the impact of its sexual assault guidance.
In response to the news, 118 survivors have written to she and the Trump administration, asking “Exactly who are you here to serve?”
The letter reads: “From the moment we were raped or assaulted, the question of who protects us has haunted us all. Collectively, we represent thousands of instances of institutional failure at colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. We suffered immensely, as did our academics, relationships, and overall well-being. Institutional betrayal forced many of us, and countless others, to leave school.”
Adding: “The administration has signalled that it is seriously considering further dismantling protections for survivors of sexual violence by weakening the oversight and enforcement mechanisms of the federal government ― enforcement that many vulnerable students and survivors need. We come forward with a simple request: Don’t.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the National Coalition for Men as a hate group.
It describes itself as a “nonprofit educational organisation that raises awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys.”
In the past, the group has released photos and names of women it called “false accusers”.
The group has also opposed LGBT provisions being added to the Violence Against Women Act 2012 and has sued organisations which do not let men into women’s events.
Speaking to HuffPost, Jess Davidson the managing director of End Rape on Campus said: “They have viciously and very intentionally harassed rape survivors online by exposing their identities and posting pictures of them.
“From our perspective, they really have no place in a conversation about civil rights, and it shows that this administration will either turn a blind eye to or actively participate in hostility toward survivors of sexual violence.”
DeVos also met with Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), a rape denial organisation.
On the organisation’s website is a section called “Ten Myths of Campus Sexual Assault.”
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It also refers to “rape culture hysteria”, “rape hoax” and tears apart the idea of “affirmative consent”.
The head of the department of education’s office for civil rights, Candice Jackson, has organised the meetings, according to the New York Times.
Jackson said: “The accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
DeVos last month refused to say whether she believes LGBT students should be safeguarded from discrimination.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had last month stunned Congress by refusing to rule out taxpayer funding for private schools that discriminate against LGBT students.