Dems unveil bill to write campus sexual assault guidance into law

Dems unveil bill to write campus sexual assault guidance into law
© Greg Nash

Democrats are working to stop Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosToday’s education system is perfectly designed for no one DeVos blames Trump transition team for shaky confirmation hearings Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots MORE from rescinding Obama-era guidance on how colleges should handle sexual assaults on campus.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Thursday along with Democratic Reps. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelOvernight Regulation: Trump issues order to ease ObamaCare rules | NRA opposes bill banning bump stocks | Dems propose writing campus sex assault guidance into law Dems unveil bill to write campus sexual assault guidance into law Fla. lawmaker warned officials before retirement home tragedy MORE (Fla.), Bobby ScottBobby ScottOvernight Regulation: House passes bill to overturn joint-employer rule | Trump officials to allow work requirements for Medicaid | Lawmakers 'alarmed' by EPA's science board changes House passes bill to overturn controversial joint-employer ruling Bipartisan duo offer criminal justice reform legislation MORE (Va.) and Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.) to codify into law guidance on sexual violence DeVos withdrew last month while the agency takes its first steps to write new guidance.

The 2011 guidance and 2014 question-and-answer document DeVos rescinded, which would be written into law under Speier’s bill, direct schools to use "preponderance of evidence" — or the “is-it-more-likely-than-not" standard — when determining whether sexual harassment or violence occurred.

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DeVos issued interim guidance last month to allow schools to instead use the higher “clear-and-convincing-evidence” standard of proof, which forces schools to discern if it was "highly probable or reasonably certain" that a sexual assault occurred.  

DeVos claimed the current guidance has failed to protect both victims and students who are wrongly accused. 

Speier’s bill would also legally require schools investigating sexual assaults to adhere to a 60-calendar day time frame and honor complainant requests for confidentiality. Schools would also be prohibited from questioning victims about their sexual history with anyone other than the person they have accused of sexual harassment or violence.

The bill says that while it is Congress’s view that these requirements are already covered by Title IX sex discrimination laws, the recent action taken by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights contradicts longstanding guidance, discriminates against survivors and has caused confusion among schools and students.