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The U.S. Department of Education withdrew Obama-era guidance on Title IX and sexual assault at schools and college campuses Friday, and it released interim guidance it plans to leave in place while it seeks public input to inform a new policy "that better serves students and schools."
The controversial moves follow a pledge made by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos after she met with educational representatives, victims' rights groups, and organizations that said the moves by the Obama administration threatened the due process rights of the accused.
"Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on," DeVos said in a statement accompanying the interim guidance. "There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes."
While the guidance largely focuses on colleges and universities, Title IX also applies to K-12 schools. Some women's rights organizations have said they fear proposed changes could lead to less aggressive Title IX enforcement at the elementary and secondary levels.
Of particular focus has been what standard of evidence schools should use to determine if an assault has occurred and if it should respond by taking actions like disciplining students and making reasonable steps to separate the victim from the offender. The guidance says schools may apply "the preponderance of the evidence standard or the clear and convincing evidence standard."
"The standard of evidence for evaluating a claim of sexual misconduct should be consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases," the interim guidance says in a footnote.
The document does not set a fixed time frame for schools to respond to and investigate claims of sexual harassment or assault.
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