Washington Post: Education Dept. set to unveil new rules on sexual misconduct on college campuses

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was hit with another lawsuit Tuesday claiming she failed to cancel student debt owed by people whose for-profit colleges have been shut down.

The Education Department is preparing to publish a new set of rules that seek to narrow the definition of sexual misconduct on college campuses, The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The rules are set to be released before Thanksgiving and could be made public as soon as this week, the Post reported.

In August, The New York Times reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was preparing new policies to narrow the definition of sexual harassment to mean “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.” The new policy would be a departure from the Obama administration’s broader definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”

Narrowing the standard for sexual harassment and assault would have the effect of bolstering the rights of students accused of wrongdoing.

Under the new rules, schools would only be accountable for formal complaints filed through proper channels and for incidents alleged to have taken place on campus, reported the Times, which obtained a draft of the proposed rules.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with a draft of the rules, reported late last month that universities would be required to offer those accused the option of cross-examining their accusers, but through a neutral party. The rules would bar the accused from asking accusers questions about their sexual history, according to the paper. The two parties could also choose to be seated in separate rooms, according to the newspaper.

Previous policy under the Obama administration discouraged the use of cross-examination.

According to the Journal, both parties would be allowed to appeal rulings — a change from an earlier draft of the rules, but in keeping with an Obama standard.

The new rules do not address the rights of transgender students and do not include a proposed provision that would define gender as an individual’s biological sex at birth, according to the Post.

The department announced in September 2017 that it was rescinding Obama-era guidance on how schools should handle sexual assaults claims under Title IX federal law. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex for schools and programs that receive federal funding, including protection from sexual harassment.

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