Criticism of Obama-era Title IX guidance by the Secretary of Education is raising questions of what changes to expect from future investigations of sexual violence in higher education.
Since its enactment in 1972, Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments has prohibited gender-based discrimination in federally funded schools. The law enables the government to sanction schools found violating the law by pulling its funding from them. Title IX’s regulatory umbrella has cast a wide shadow in what it has authority over, and the years since have seen an increasingly high focus on scrutinizing how schools address and prevent sexual violence, with each decade bringing significant new regulation and guid-ance for Title IX compliance.
In a Sept. 7 address at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about what she deems flawed guidance for Title IX compliance put in place under former President Barack Obama, known as the “Dear Colleague” letter. In her remarks, she strongly criticized school procedures for addressing sexual violence that, she believes, often result in premature assumptions of guilt, victim humiliation and re-traumatization.
DeVos later stated her intent to rescind the Obama administration’s guidelines, though she did not give more specific details. With the education secretary having significant power to impose both new guidelines and regulations for Title IX compliance, a central question to answer remains whether what Betsy DeVos seeks to fix is truly broken. Though opinions from experts differ on how to best achieve it, they agree on the vital importance of prioritizing the equity of school processes.