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Betsy DeVos Plans To Change Law Protecting Sexual Assault Victims on College Campuses

By Kayla Lawson | Opinions Editor
On November 21, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017
Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor,
Maryland | Photo credit: by Gage Skidmore

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, spoke at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Virginia on Thursday, Sept. 7 about her plan to revise the Title IX law.

Title IX is a federal law created in 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on sex in any federally funded education program. Federally funded schools risk losing funding if they don’t abide by rules outlined in Title IX.

This law also includes many protections for survivors of sexual assault. Some of which include ensuring that schools have a specific procedure set in place to manage complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence, and that the complainant doesn’t have to contact or share any spaces with their assailant.

During the Obama administration, a letter referred to as the “Dear Colleague” letter was sent out in 2011 to all schools that receive federal funding. The letter created guidelines and procedures to follow to be sure that the Title IX law was being adhered to in its entirety.

As of Sept. 2017, Secretary DeVos began the process of revising Title IX to better protect both victims and people who have been wrongfully accused of assault.

Many fear that these future revisions to also protect the accused could adversely affect survivors of sexual assault.

“Title IX initiatives formulated during the Obama Administration are ‘pro-complainant’ and ensure the safety and wellbeing of survivors/victims of sexual assault,” said Carrie Gavin, Title IX Coordinator for Florida A&M University (FAMU).

Gavin explained how the Devos changes to Title IX will change the way the law is implemented.

“ If Secretary DeVos’ changes are not implemented in a sensitive and understanding manner for the survivor, I believe we will see less complaints filed and a chilling effect on the entire process of filing sexual violence complaints on college campuses,”Gavin continued.

When the public first heard of DeVos’ plans, many took to social media with hashtags like “#INeedIX” and “#StopBetsy.”

More than 90 national organizations and 20 state attorney generals have reached out to Secretary DeVos via letter to urge her not to follow through with her revisions.

“Rescinding the guidance would be a step in the wrong direction in addressing the national epidemic of campus sexual assault,” said the letter that was sent to DeVos on Sept.,14, 2017, and signed by 29 U.S. senators.

Students are also worried about how this change in the law could affect them.

“Without fear of consequence, possible assailants might think, ‘well, why not?,’” said FAMU first year student Michael Eugene.

However, Eugene also agreed with protections for the accused.

“The accused should get some type of protection until there’s enough physical evidence linking them to the crime.”

First-year FAMU student Mahogany Miles believes that sexual should have more severe consequences.

“Campus sexual assault needs to be treated more seriously and with harsher consequences. The way DeVos wants things sends the message of ‘eh, it’s okay. I’ll get away with it.’”

During her speech at George Mason University, DeVos said, “The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students. Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (ncfrs.gov) approximately 19% of women will be assaulted during their time in college, while 2-10% of sexual assault reports are false.

 

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