The Department of Education (ED) Nov. 16 released a proposed rule that would significantly reduce the requirements of institutions to investigate complaints of sexual assaults on their campuses. Public comment on the proposed rule is due by Jan. 23, 2019.
The proposed rule would:
Require institutions only to investigate assault and misconduct accusations that occur on campus property;
Require institutions to investigate cases only if they have “actual knowledge” of misconduct;
Require a sexual assault victim to submit a formal complaint if misconduct occurs; and
Allow each institution to set individual definitions of “misconduct.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released the proposed rule over a year after ED rescinded Obama era guidance documents regarding a standard definition of misconduct. In a press release, Secretary DeVos noted institutions need “clear policies and fair processes that every student can rely on. Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined. We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it, while ensuring a fair grievance process.”
In response to the new regulations, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) Nov. 29 submitted a letter to Secretary DeVos opposing the proposed rule and requesting the reinstatement of the Obama era guidance. The letter is cosigned by 41 House Democrats. Rep. Speier also introduced the bipartisan Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) Campus Sexual Violence Act (H.R. 6464), which would allow students to sue their institution if the school fails to meet campus safety or investigative requirements.