Interim Title IX guidelines announced

Monica Kast

The Department of Education has released new, interim guidelines for colleges and universities to use when investigating sexual assault, including rescinding the Obama administration’s guidelines and giving colleges and universities the option to use a higher standard of evidence.

On Sept. 7, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, called Title IX’s guidelines on sexual assault “a failed system” and signaled that adjustments would be coming to the current Title IX regulations.

Last Friday, Sept. 22, those adjustments were announced by the DOE. The DOE released new interim guidelines for colleges and universities, which outline the changes.

“This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly,” DeVos said in a statement. “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.”

The new guidelines explain the DOE’s “current expectations of schools,” saying that permanent guidelines will be developed over the coming months.

With the release of new guidance, the DOE also rescinded 2011 and 2014 guidance for campus sexual assault. The 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the DOE said under Title IX, the federal government could set the specific procedures that colleges and universities must use when investigating sexual assault allegations.

According to a statement from the DOE, those guidelines were rescinded because “the withdrawn documents ignored notice and comment requirements, created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”

Under the Obama administration, campuses could use “preponderance of evidence,” a legal standard based on the accuracy of the most probable evidence, and not on the amount of evidence. This standard is lower than the “clear and convincing” legal standard, which campus sexual assault cases are now able to use under the new guidelines.

The new regulations also state that there is “no fixed time frame under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation.” This differs from the Obama administration’s guidelines, which did set a fixed time frame, depending on the complexity of the case.

Andrea Anderson, assistant general counsel and WKU’s Title IX coordinator, was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

On Sept. 7, DeVos said “the era of ‘rule by letter’ is over,” a statement she repeated Friday.

“As I said earlier this month, the era of rule by letter is over,” DeVos said. “The Department of Education will follow the proper legal procedures to craft a new Title IX regulation that better serves students and schools.

News editor Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.