Education

Want to weigh in on Title IX? Ed Dept will hear comments in June

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Education will hold a five-day virtual hearing in June to receive feedback on its approach to Title IX, the federal law governing how colleges must investigate and potentially punish sexual violence on campuses. 

  • The agency had already announced it would hold the event, which is scheduled June 7 through June 11, but had not released additional details. 

  • President Joe Biden has promised to undo the current Title IX regulation, which the last administration put in place and attracted fierce criticism from sexual assault survivor activists. 

Dive Insight:

The regulation issued under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos created a tribunal system for judging reports of sexual assault. Most controversially, schools must allow both parties to cross-examine the other through a surrogate, which critics said could retraumatize survivors. 

It also limited the off-campus cases colleges would need to look into and narrowed the definition of sexual harassment from the one the Obama administration urged institutions to adopt. Now, schools must evaluate whether the harassment is “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” enough to interfere with a student’s education, which is the definition the U.S. Supreme Court uses in Title IX cases. 

The rule took effect last August. Biden has pledged to unravel it, and has taken steps to do so. The virtual hearing is widely viewed as a precursor to the Education Department delivering a new regulation. 

Policy experts have said crafting a new rule would take longer than issuing interim guidance — likely years — but that doing so would ensure the resulting regulation would be harder to uproot in the long term.

The Obama administration came under fire for dictating Title IX policy through guidance, which did not carry the force of law. However, survivor activists credit those measures with putting a national spotlight on campus sexual violence.

Biden, who played a key role in the Obama administration’s efforts on sexual assault prevention, is continuing that focus. 

The description of the June hearing states that the public will be able to weigh in on how schools can develop procedures that guarantee “fair, prompt, and equitable” resolution of sexaual violence reports. 

Registration for the event is not open yet. A department spokesperson said the agency will share more information as the date nears about how the public can submit comments and participate.

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