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 DeVosObama Education Secretary: US education system is 'top 10 in nothing' The Hill's Morning Report — Dems split on key issues but united against Trump Omarosa: DeVos said black students don’t have ‘capacity to understand’ her goals 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 Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick United States should capitalize — literally — on the #MeToo moment Dem lawmaker brings coat hanger to briefing to denounce Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (Fla.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottOvernight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen The Hill's 12:30 Report House Democrats to introduce bill that would allow free two-year degrees: report 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The 2011 guidance and 2014 question-and-answer document DeVos rescinded, which would be written into law under Speier’s bill, direct schools to use "preponderance of evidence" — or the “is-it-more-likely-than-not" standard — when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.

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.