TAMPA, Fla. — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been at the forefront of trying to roll back the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive public funds.
Known as Title IX of the Federal Education Act, the law includes a “preponderance of evidence” clause that allows colleges and universities to convene tribunals to handle sexual offense allegations on campus rather than pass them on to local authorities.
Title IX was enhanced by the 1990 Clery Act, signed by President George H. W. Bush and named after a Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in her dormitory.
Under the act, college and university administrations are required to report all campus crimes to the authorities.
Nevertheless, only about a third of campus rapes and other assaults are reported by school authorities to the off-campus authorities. And for the likes of Secretary DeVos, even this is an infringement on the rights of the accused assaulters.
Many colleges and universities rely on the preponderance of evidence clause to deal with cases of sexual assault on campus. School administrators who adopted the Title IX clause, known as the “Obama Rule,” are resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to turn back the clock to an era when such cases, depending on the political influence and deep pockets of the parents of accused students, would see local district attorneys waiving all charges after receiving a phone call from a “connected” parent or his or her high-priced attorney.
Perhaps, it should come as no surprise that DeVos should blithely dismiss the issue of sexual assaults on campuses. DeVos let it be known where she comes down on campus assaults when she selected Candice Jackson as director of her department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Jackson is on record stating that 90 percent of rape allegations on campus are dubious because they involve alcohol and damaged pre-existing relationships.
Secretary DeVos has also donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit group that advocates for the rights of students accused of sexual assaults on campus.
Adding to the coffers of FIRE is a Koch Brothers industry non-profit foundation, a libertarian cash mill that would like to see every law in the United States abrogated as “burdensome” on criminal individuals and corporations.
Even from someone serving in an administration led by a boorish president, who was caught on a videotape bragging about how he could get away with sexually assaulting women because of his money and fame, DeVos is out of the mainstream when it comes to the vexing issue of sexual crimes on campus.
DeVos calls the preponderance of evidence tribunals by universities and colleges “kangaroo courts.” However, in such cases, experienced external investigators are called in to help the school administration with assault cases. Under such rules, cases involving “regret sex” are usually dismissed.
States like California, Illinois and New York are codifying into state law the preponderance of evidence requirements of Title IX. State “yes means yes” laws, which require adoption of Title IX’s provisions by schools receiving state funds, are butting up against DeVos’s new interpretation of Title IX, which can be described as “no might mean yes.”
The advocacy organization End Rape on Campus has challenged DeVos’s roll back of Title IX. It has accused DeVos and the Trump administration of “tipping the scales” to favor “rapists and perpetrators.” In the #MeToo era, these advocates for vulnerable students are correct.
Wayne Madsen, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, is a progressive commentator whose writings have appeared in leading American and European newspapers. Readers may write him at 415 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594.
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