Education Sec. Betsy DeVos introduces new proposal that may protect those accused of sexual assault on college campuses

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos introduced new regulations on Friday that would give accusers of sexual assault on college campuses more leverage – a proposal that she claims would give them a fair shot at defending themselves. Critics, however, argue that it instead strips assault victims of their rights while protecting the accused, Buzzfeed reports.

“The goal is to basically reduce the obligation of schools to address sexual harassment,” said Elizabeth Tang, an attorney at the National Women’s Law Center. “What the department is doing is inviting schools to ignore sexual harassment.”

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DeVos revealed Thursday that she plans to end the Obama administration’s rules for investigating allegations of sexual violence on campus. DeVos haven’t unveiled new initiatives yet, but indicated that in order to replace the current policy, she will “seek public feedback and combine institutional and expert knowledge.”

Under the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations by DeVos, “schools must let an accused person cross-examine their accuser through a third party, will be able to use a higher standard of evidence to decide an accused student’s guilt, and will not have to investigate reports of off-campus sexual assaults involving students.”

These new rules would apply to Title IX funded schools.

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Victims rights advocates believe this new measure gets schools off the hook for assaults that occur off-campus, thus allowing them to ignore these type of sexual harassment crimes.

The Trump administration however argues that it will save schools nationwide between $286 million and $368 million over 10 years by having fewer sexual misconduct cases to investigate.

Right now the proposal is going through a “notice and comment” phase where the public has 60 days to submit their opinion about the proposed rules in writing to the Education Department. It has also been printed in the Federal Register.

“I absolutely guarantee there will be litigation,” said Scott Schneider, a lawyer at Husch Blackwell, a firm that represents large universities.

Jessica Davidson, head of the activist group End Rape on Campus, said that DeVos has been close-minded to victim advocacy groups who urged her to keep the Obama-era guidelines.

“Not only did she see us as her opposition, but she also saw us as hysterical liars, and that goes beyond partisan politics in a way I think is really, really harmful,” Davidson told BuzzFeed News.