With Betsy DeVos, school-choice champion and critic of public education, now in charge of the Department of Education, there’s a good chance that a lot of things are going to change about how our children are educated and how laws are interpreted in schools.
One law that has gotten a lot of attention recently? Title IX. When asked about examining Title IX in her confirmation hearing, DeVos wasn’t able to give a “yes” or “no” answer on whether she would stick by previous changes made in regards to Title IX and sexual assault cases. While she has said that she is “sensitive” to the issue of sexual assault, she has only committed to “looking closely at the issue” and past changes.
Are Title IX Standards at Risk of Changing?
The past administration worked hard to crack down on Title IX violations and bring the issue of sexual assaults on campus to light. In 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) wrote a “Dear Colleague” letter that made notable changes in how sexual assault cases were dealt with on college campuses.
The letter told school officials that sexual assault should be dealt with under Title IX’s anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws:
- If a student was accused of sexual assault or other forms of sexual violence, the school would have to respond within 60 days. Even if there was an impending criminal case, the school had to move forward with their case – or they would be in violation of Title IX themselves.
- When conducting a hearing, the complainant would only have to provide evidence that “more likely than not” proved the student’s guilt. Basically, if there’s over a 50% chance that the student committed the crime, they were penalized.
Before this letter was written in 2011, Title IX violations were tried with a “clear and convincing evidence” standard. Could this be a policy that Trump’s administration suggests we move back to?
The 2016 GOP Platform states that sexual assault should be prosecuted in a courtroom, rather than a faculty lounge, and that judges should use the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of evidence. If Betsy DeVos and the OCR act on this platform, we could see big changes from what has been the standard since 2011.
For those who may be accused, this could be a good thing by returning some of your rights to you and making the playing field a bit fairer. Currently, things are weighted quite a bit in complainants’ favor, and there is a lot of pressure on schools to appear tough on sexual misconduct.
If You’re Accused Today, You Still Have to Deal with Today’s Standards
Imagining what the future of Title IX enforcement might look like is all well and good, but if you or your child is currently facing accusations, what may be doesn’t really matter. You have to deal with the process as it is today.
That means that you can provide evidence, but that you may not necessarily be given a hearing. That you can’t have a lawyer present in any official meetings. That there is no guarantee of a right to appeal. And so on.
Despite all that, you are not completely without options. Even though a Title IX defense attorney can’t speak for you or advise you in hearings or other meetings, they can help you to prepare for them. They can advise you on how to answer without incriminating yourself. They can work with school administrators and others behind the scenes to help your situation.
Interested in learning more? Reach out to a knowledgeable Title IX lawyer as soon as possible for a free consultation on your case.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.