Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assault gets scrapped

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday scrapped Obama-era guidance on investigating campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim instructions allowing universities to decide which standard of evidence to use when handling complaints.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Friday scrapped Obama-era guidance on investigating campus sexual assault, replacing it with new instructions that allow universities to require higher standards of evidence when handling complaints.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said that President Barack Obama’s policy had been unfairly skewed against those accused of assault and had “weaponized” the Education Department to “work against schools and against students.”

The change is the latest in Trump’s broader effort to roll back Obama policies. Women’s rights groups slammed Friday’s decision, saying it will discourage students from reporting assault.

The guidance released in 2011 and then updated in 2014 instructed universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when assessing and investigating a claim of sexual assault.

DeVos’ new interim guidelines let colleges choose between that standard and a “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which is harder to meet. Those rules will be in place temporarily while the Education Department gathers comments from interest groups and the public and writes new guidance.

“Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes,” DeVos said in a statement.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said the new rule will have a “devastating” impact on students and schools.

“It will discourage students from reporting assaults, create uncertainty for schools on how to follow the law, and make campuses less safe,” Graves said in a statement. “This misguided directive is a huge step back to a time when sexual assault was a secret that was swept under the rug.”

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating 360 sexual violence cases at 258 postsecondary institutions.

A student may choose whether to report a claim of assault to police…

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