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 DeVosMueller probing Israeli businessman connected to UAE Warner sees 'credible components' in report that foreign governments offered to aid Trump campaign Democratic senator: Trump Jr. meeting with Gulf emissary 'absolutely crazy' 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 FrankelA letter to Donald Trump: Fix the Iran Deal, don’t nix it Melania Trump wears white pantsuit to State of the Union Democrats planning protests for Trump’s first State of the Union MORE (Fla.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHouse Dems call for a vote on ObamaCare stabilization bill Top House, Senate Dems warn administration on short-term insurance Trump appointee at center of fight over religious freedom 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The 2011 guidance and 2014 question-and-answer document DeVos rescinded, which would be written into law under Speier’s bill, direct schools to use "preponderance of evidence" — or the “is-it-more-likely-than-not" standard — when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.