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Biden Administration Announces Next Steps in Overhaul of Title IX Campus Sexual Assault Rules

The education department on Tuesday announced plans to hold a public hearing on how schools should handle cases of sexual misconduct as a first step in a planned overhaul of Title IX regulations.

In a letter released by the Education Department, the hearing is described as a chance for students, parents, school officials and lawyers to weigh in before the Biden administration comes up with its proposal on the How K-12 schools and colleges receiving public funding should respond to the allegations. sexual assault and harassment. The ministry has not yet announced a schedule for the hearing, but plans to share more details in the coming weeks. The hearing will take place over several days and will include a virtual component, a department official said.

After the hearing, the ministry intends to begin a formal process known as a “Settlement Proposal” to rewrite the Title IX rules, which would include another round of public comments.

The department will also be publishing question-and-answer advice in the coming weeks to advise schools on how to comply with current Title IX rules.

During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden vowed to remove the Trump administration’s new campus sexual misconduct policy, which came into effect in August under Title IX, a law on fairness between women and men. sexes. Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she designed the new rules to provide a clearer and fairer process for adjudicating sexual assault complaints; Victims’ rights advocates criticized the regulation for narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and limiting the incidents that schools could investigate.

Biden signed an executive order last month asking Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to review and consider rewriting the regulation.

“Today’s action is the first step in ensuring that Title IX regulations are effective and promote safe learning environments for our students while implementing fair processes,” Cardona said in a press release Tuesday morning.

Cardona did not indicate the specific policies that the Biden administration intends to propose or change.

Democratic lawmakers and sexual assault advocates had already started pressuring the Biden administration to act quickly by changing the rules of Title IX. Some welcomed Tuesday’s announcement.

“This is a critical next step in protecting school survivors and ensuring the fulfillment of the Title IX promise to end gender discrimination,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center , a nonprofit advocacy group. “So I would see this step as a victory and a testament to the surviving students who have continued to fight so courageously for campuses where they can be safe and treated fairly and with dignity.”

Federal rule making can be a long process – sometimes taking more than a year – but it is more enduring than executive orders or political declarations, and it is more difficult for future administrations to turn back the clock. Under DeVos, the Education Department used the same rulemaking process to implement the current Title IX policy on campus sexual misconduct.

DeVos’ framework prevents schools from launching Title IX investigations into allegations of assault that take place off campus, uses a narrower definition of sexual harassment by workplace standards, and requires schools to assume that the accused students are innocent from the outset of the investigations.

DeVos ‘rules have been widely condemned by victims’ rights advocates, who have said that certain elements, such as requiring colleges to allow accused students to cross-examine their accusers through third parties, would discourage them. people to report assaults. Many business groups for K-12 schools and universities have also been critical, arguing that the rules would turn their institutions into courtrooms.

Advocates for the accused students praised DeVos’ policies as ensuring impartial responses to allegations of assault on campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit that focuses on due process on college campuses, said last month it would not rule out suing to block a rewrite by the Biden administration of Title IX rules.

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