House Democrats press for speedy release of Title IX proposal

Dive Brief:

  • Dozens of Democrats in the House of Representatives are asking the U.S. Department of Education to issue its regulatory proposal next month for how colleges should investigate and potentially punish reports of sexual violence on campuses.
  • The department is reworking the rule on Title IX, the federal law banning sex-based discrimination in educational settings. The agency has indicated it would publish a draft regulation in May 2022, which the representatives said was too long to wait. 
  • Their request echoes one by several advocacy groups who demanded the department deliver a proposed rule by the first of next month. 

Dive Insight:

The Biden administration moved quickly to start scrapping the Trump-era regulation governing Title IX, which former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said was intended to correct a system that was biased against students accused of sexual misconduct. 

Sexual assault survivor activists, however, said the rule greenlit colleges to disregard reports of sexual violence, including many in off-campus settings.

The Trump-era regulation sets up a tribunal system for evaluating Title IX cases, in which an accused student and the accuser are allowed to cross-examine each other through an adviser of their choice. Critics of the procedure said it is cumbersome and dissuades reporting. 

The Biden Education Department is still enforcing much of the rule, which went into effect last August. A federal judge recently found unlawful one of its provisions that dictated colleges couldn’t factor in statements made outside of the cross-examination process when deciding on a case. In the wake of that ruling, the department said colleges can now consider statements made out of a hearing.

The agency indicated in a regulatory database it would release a proposed regulation by next May. This timetable did not please survivor activists, who called on the department not to discipline colleges that aren’t following parts of the current rule. 

Nearly 60 House members echoed that request in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg on Monday. They asked the department to issue a directive so that schools would not have to dismiss certain claims, allowing colleges to follow local and state laws protecting against harassment, and that would prevent survivors from enduring “unjust and hostile investigations and hearings.”

They pointed out that the Trump regulation took almost two years to go into effect after the past administration proposed regulatory changes. 

“If the Department uses a similar timeline, it is on track to not issue a final rule until February 2024,” they wrote. “Simply put, students cannot wait much longer for the Department to restore their civil rights.”

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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