We initially wrote back in September about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s push to change how colleges and universities address sexual misconduct on college campuses. The new plan has now been released to go through a general comment period, which could bring more changes. The general thrust is that there would be additional protections to the accused students and clearer guidelines about what types of cases would be investigated by campus officials. According to reports, these changes would fix a system that failed students by allowing the assumption of guilt before due process.
Under the new plan
More than a year in planning, this change rolls back policies by the Obama administration about how to implement Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in schools that receive federal funding. Important areas of note include:
Burden of proof: Instead of the previous threshold of “preponderance of the evidence,” the new level of proof would be “clear and convincing evidence.” It also adds that rules must apply equally to both students as well as faculty and staff.
Right to cross-examine: The new rules also guarantee the rights to cross-examine. To minimize the trauma involved, a third party, such as an accused student’s lawyer, could handle these questions.
Informal dispute resolutions: Contrary to current laws, the changes would also include an option for mediation or informal dispute resolution of an issue.
No contact rule: The no contact while the case is being investigated rule would apply to both sides, which is a change for the current rule where the accused shoulders most of the burden for compliance.
Ensuring fairness for both sides
It is important to investigate cases of sexual misconduct at IU and other schools here in Indiana. However, the cornerstone of our legal system is procedures and protections for the accused to ensure that their rights are not violated. Some may have concerns about victims not wishing to go through this process, but there are two sides to every issue. An attorney with experience handling formal and informal sexual misconduct accusations can help protect these rights.