Education Department moves to reverse Trump-era rules on campus sexual misconduct

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks with reporters at the White House
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The Department of Education on Tuesday began the process of reversing a Trump-era policy on how colleges handle sexual misconduct complaints.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to students, educators and stakeholders outlining plans to formally begin the review process for the policy, issued last year by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The agency said it aims to ensure schools have “grievance procedures that provide for the fair, prompt, and equitable resolution of reports of sexual harassment and other sex discrimination, cognizant of the sensitive issues that are often involved.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement that Tuesday’s action “is the first step in making sure that the Title IX regulations are effective and are fostering safe learning environments for our students while implementing fair processes.”

The move comes roughly a month after President Biden signed an executive order directing Cardona to review the Trump-era policy, which narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, and gave accused students the right to use representatives to cross-examine their accusers at live hearings. It created other protections for the accused as well.

DeVos saw the rule change as one of her significant achievements at the agency, arguing that it balanced the scales and gave the accused more rights. 

Critics of the rule argued that it emboldened a culture that prevents victims of sexual misconduct from speaking up. Biden was critical of the rule, and vowed on the campaign trail that it would be swiftly reversed if he were elected.

But rolling back the rule is likely to take years. The Associated Press noted that it took three years for DeVos’s rule to be finalized under the process that the Biden administration is using to undo it.

In the meantime, the department told stakeholders that it plans to issue a question-and-answer document in the coming months on how it interprets the existing policy.

Tags Betsy DeVos Department of Education Joe Biden Miguel Cardona Title IX

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