As kids head off (or back) to college, it’s a good time to look at the changes the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is proposing to Title IX. That’s the federal law that deals with sex-based discrimination in education as well as sexual misconduct.
Some of the proposed changes are intended to undo policies implemented during the last administration when Betsy DeVos was Secretary of Education. Many people complained DeVos-era policies tended to favor the accused over the alleged victim.
Note that these are simply proposed changes. The “draft rule” is currently open for feedback and comment before a final rule is issued. Let’s look at just a few proposed changes.
Broadening the definition of sexual harassment
The ED’s current definition is conduct that’s “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it could ruin a person’s ability to get an education. The proposal is to return to defining it as “all forms of sex-based harassment, including unwelcome sex-based conduct that creates a hostile environment by denying or limiting a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from a school’s education program or activity.”
This would allow the inclusion of some verbal harassment. Colleges can still investigate allegations outside the current definition of sexual harassment.
Live hearings would no longer be mandatory
Colleges would still be able to use these hearings, which resemble a court hearing. However, they could also use a “single-investigator model” where an official investigates the case and decides the outcome. Critics say this model denies the accused due process.
Inclusion of accused off-campus misconduct
Current regulations only require colleges to investigate alleged campus sexual misconduct. That means if a student claims they were assaulted in an off-campus apartment by another student, they wouldn’t have to investigate. The proposed change would mandate an investigation wherever the alleged activity occurred.
Of course, parents would always prefer that their college student never have to face such allegations at all. It’s crucial to make sure that college students (and people of all ages) remember that affirmative consent is necessary throughout any kind of sexual interaction. If someone is incapacitated by alcohol and/or drugs, they cannot legally provide consent.
College students get themselves into all kinds of unwise situations. If your child is facing an accusation of sexual assault or any kind of sexual misconduct, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to help ensure that their rights – and their education – are protected.