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Critics of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' proposal to overhaul how schools respond to sexual misconduct allegations are urging Americans to participate in the public comment process. (Photo: Know Your XI/Twitter)

Critics Warn 'Heartless' New Rules by Betsy DeVos Will Encourage Schools to 'Be More Complicit in Sexual Violence'

"With sexual assaults already under-reported and routinely ignored, these new rules will make campuses dramatically more dangerous."

Jessica Corbett

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday officially unveiled her long-anticipated "heartless and immoral" proposal to overhaul how universities respond to sexual harassment and assault allegations, inciting outrage among survivors, their advocates, and educators alike.

"This draft rule is a cruel attempt to silence sexual assault survivors and limit their educational opportunity."
—Vanita Gupta, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

"With one in five women sexually assaulted while in college, we are facing a national rape epidemic on our campuses, yet Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration just put out new rules encouraging schools to be more complicit in sexual violence," declared Shaunna Thomas of the women's rights group UltraViolet.

As anticipated from a draft leaked earlier this year and recent reporting by the Washington Post, DeVos' proposal narrows the definition of sexual harassment, reduces schools' liability, and enables attorneys for the accused to cross-examine survivors.

"These rules further protect abusers in a system that is already rigged in their favor and dramatically reduce requirements that schools protect their students," Thomas warned. "With sexual assaults already under-reported and routinely ignored, these new rules will make campuses dramatically more dangerous."

DeVos' proposed changes to how universities enforce Title IX—the federal law that bars sex-based discrimination in schools—come after she was widely condemned for scrapping less formal guidelines established under the Obama administration as well as for touting concerns about false allegations, which research shows are incredibly uncommon, after meeting with "men's rights" groups.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten charged that the "announcement of Title IX rollbacks is the latest in a troubling pattern of Secretary DeVos' efforts to dismantle the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights and turn the federal government's back on students who are suffering, vulnerable, or disenfranchised."

"This rule abdicates the responsibility to protect every student's right to safety on campus. It tells academic institutions that they needn't bother helping to protect students; they won't be liable," she added. "These changes once again demonstrate that students are not DeVos' priority."

In a series of tweets detailing what Title IX is, how the law helps survivors, and how critics of Devos' proposal can challenge it, the group End Rape on Campus issued a reminder that "we have the chance to stop [DeVos] from putting these disastrous rules into effect by participating in the notice-and-comment process."

"This draft rule is a cruel attempt to silence sexual assault survivors and limit their educational opportunity," concluded Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

"We call on all who support equal opportunity to participate in this comment process," she said, "and make clear that fundamental American values of fairness and equality will not be abandoned and that schools must provide all students an educational environment free from sex discrimination and violence."

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