Statement by NOW President Toni Van Pelt:
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct that turn the government’s response to assault, harassment and rape upside down. She wants to shred the Obama Administration’s guidelines for rightfully and aggressively holding schools accountable for complaints of sexual harassment and rewrite the rules to limit the definition of sexual harassment and favoring the rights of students accused of assault.
Under the Obama guidelines, schools could rely on the lowest standard of proof, or the “preponderance of evidence” when deciding whether or not an alleged perpetrator should be punished for sexual misconduct. But in Betsy DeVos’ upside-down land, schools could decide which level of evidence to rely on when investigating misconduct, narrow the definition of sexual harassment, and only be accountable for complaints which are formally filed.
Betsy DeVos sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil against sexual predators on campuses across the country. Instead, she joins her partner-in-crime Donald Trump in railing against bureaucracy and standards of evidence that support survivors of sexual assault.
The new rules will not require congressional approval to be enacted, but lawmakers are not off the hook. Congress must call on Betsy DeVos to explain why she gives more weight to the feelings of the perpetrator and short shift to the survivors of the horrific crimes of sexual assault, harassment, and rape. Congress should strengthen the laws dealing with campus sexual violence and hold the schools and perpetrators accountable rather than covering up these crimes and letting schools and predators off the hook.
Brittany T. Oliver, email@example.com, 202-628-8669