US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos intends to release her much-anticipated ruling that will govern how schools are to proceed in investigating sexual assault allegations, bolstering the rights of the accused, according to those familiar with the situation.
The regulations are largely left unaltered from the version released in 2018, though there are minor adjustments made throughout, said one person familiar with the matter who wished to remain anonymous.
The rules will give colleges and universities a clear but difficult road map for settling emotionally charged disputes between students. It is said to replace less formal guidance that was issued by the Obama administration, which was more lenient on those making allegations.
Under the new rules, college students accused of sexual assault and harassment must be given the right to a live hearing and the ability to cross-examine their accusers, much as the proposed rule directed. The rules also define sexual harassment narrowly, limiting it to conduct that is both severe and pervasive, not just one or the other.
In one change, however, the regulation explicitly adds dating violence and stalking as allegations that must be investigated.
In publishing the proposal in November 2018, DeVos said the new rules would restore balance in a system that, in her view, had been skewed in favor of the accusers. She said her approach would provide clarity and fairness for victims and those accused of wrongdoing.
The regulations stem from a 1972 law known as Title IX that does not allow sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funding. Although the attention is primarily set on higher education, the rules also apply to elementary and secondary schools.
Overall, the new regulation describes what defines sexual harassment or assault as part of Title IX enforcement, what ignites a school’s legal obligation to deal with allegations, and how a school must respond.
The final regulation does have some changes that were not originally in the 2018 proposal.
It clarifies that colleges and universities are solely responsible for investigating incidents that occur in university-recognized fraternity or sorority houses located off-campus, or in off-campus apartments if the event is affiliated with a university program of any kind.