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Federal judge allows new campus sexual assault rules to move forward

Federal judge allows new campus sexual assault rules to move forward
© Greg Nash

A federal judge declined to block the Department of Education’s controversial new rules on how schools and universities respond to complaints of sexual assault.

The rules, which go into effect Friday, will modify Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits “discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance,” by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and requiring schools to challenge evidence and cross-examine students via a live hearing.

Under the new rules, schools will only be found in violation of Title IX if they are determined to be “deliberately indifferent” to accusations of sexual assault that occurred in their programs and activities. The new rule also does not set resolution dates for cases, whereas old provisions required matters to be resolved in 60 days.

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Pennsylvania and 17 other states asked for an injunction on the rule, which was rejected on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee. 

The states argue that the new rules mean "fewer sexual harassment complaints will be filed, and schools will be less well equipped to protect their students' safety and rid their programs and activities of the pernicious effects of sex discrimination.”

Nichols wrote in his 31-page opinion that schools are still able to “address and discipline such behavior through their own codes of conduct.”

The judge also tossed arguments saying that the new rules would bring added burdens to localities by withholding funding if they choose to adopt a broader definition of sexual harassment.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosNational reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Women set to take key roles in Biden administration America has a civic education problem — here's how to fix it MORE said in a statement that the ruling is “yet another victory for students and reaffirms that students’ rights under Title IX go hand in hand with basic American principles of fairness and due process.”