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Title IX protections have been expanded in the Biden administration’s new proposal to mark the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Rights Act

The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a dramatic overhaul of campus sexual assault rules to expand protections for LGBTQ students, strengthen victims’ rights and expand college responsibilities in addressing sexual misconduct.

The proposal, announced to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX Women’s Rights Act, is intended to replace a set of controversial rules enacted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during the Trump administration.

President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, said Title IX has been “instrumental” in addressing sexual assault and violence in education.

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark law, our proposed changes will allow us to continue that progress and ensure that all of our nation’s students — no matter where they live, who they are or who they love — learn, grow and learn can do well in school,” he said.

The proposal will almost certainly be contested by conservatives and is expected to spark new litigation over the rights of transgender students in schools, particularly in sport. It now faces a public feedback period before the Biden administration can finalize changes, meaning the policy is unlikely to come into effect until next year at the earliest.

The move comes in response to a call from victims’ rights advocates, who wanted Biden to release new rules banning sex discrimination in schools and colleges no later than the anniversary of Title IX. Proponents say DeVos’ rules went too far in protecting students accused of sexual misconduct, at the expense of the victims.

As a presidential candidate, Biden had promised a quick end to DeVos’ rules, saying they would “shame and silence survivors.”

Announcing his proposal, Biden’s Department of Education said DeVos’ rules “weakened protections for sexual assault survivors and diminished the promise of nondiscriminatory education.”

Watch Sofia Carson Host Our America: Fifty50, an ABC Owned Television Stations Special Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, on your local ABC station (click here to check local listings) or wherever They Stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

For the first time, the rules would formally protect LGBTQ students under Title IX. Nothing in the 1972 Act specifically addresses the issue, but the new proposal would clarify that the Act applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It would make clear that “preventing them from participating in school programs and activities that conform to their gender identity would cause harm that violates Title IX,” according to the ministry. More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later, the department said.

Biden celebrated the anniversary of Title IX by acknowledging the law’s impact on promoting equity, but acknowledging there is still more work to be done.

“As we look forward to the next 50 years, I am committed to protecting that progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans,” he said in an explanation.

Many of the proposed changes would mark a return to Obama-era rules, which have been replaced by DeVos policies.

The definition of sexual harassment would be expanded to cover a broader spectrum of misconduct. Schools would need to address any misconduct that creates a “hostile environment” for students, even if the misconduct occurs off-campus. Most college employees would be required to notify campus officials if they became aware of potential gender discrimination.

A victory for victims’ rights advocates, the proposal would eliminate a rule requiring colleges to hold live hearings to adjudicate cases of sexual misconduct — one of the most contentious aspects of DeVos policy. Live hearings would be allowed under the new policy, but colleges could appoint a “decision maker” on campus to review evidence and assess student credibility.

If completed, the proposal would be the second revision of Title IX federal rules in two years. DeVos’ rules were themselves designed to reverse Obama-era leadership. Obama’s policy was welcomed by victims’ advocates, but led to hundreds of lawsuits from accused students who said their colleges did not provide them with a fair process of self-defense.

Whiplash has caused many schools to struggle to adopt ever-changing rules. Some have pushed for a political middle ground that protects students without dictating new rules every time the White House changes power.

“It serves nobody to have this ping-pong effect by changing rules every five years,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus safety advisor and president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses. “It’s just not a good way to get things done. It’s very difficult for everyone involved.”

DeVos’ rules have fundamentally changed the way colleges deal with allegations of sexual assault and harassment, with a focus on ensuring the accused’s constitutional rights to due process.

Under their rules, accused students were given a broader right to review and act on evidence against them, and students had the right to interrogate each other through a representative at live hearings.

The call for a live hearing was hailed as a victory for the accused students, but drew strong backlash from other advocates, who said it was forcing victims to relive their trauma.

DeVos also reduced colleges’ obligations in responding to complaints. Their policy narrowed the definition of harassment and reduced the types of cases colleges must deal with. As a result, the number of Title IX complaints received from students has sharply decreased at some colleges.

For example, under their rules, colleges are not required to investigate and take action on most complaints that arise off campus unless the alleged misconduct is “serious, pervasive and objectively objectionable.”

The overhaul was intended in part to ease the burden on colleges of mediating complex cases, but some say it ultimately meant more work.

Some college leaders have said the DeVos Rules are too prescriptive, forcing them to turn campus discipline systems into miniature courtrooms. Many schools have continued to deal with all complaints of sexual misconduct, even if they do not meet the narrower definition of harassment, but have had to establish separate disciplinary procedures to handle these cases.

Advocates on both sides say this can be confusing for students.

“It shouldn’t be like that. It should be more consistent, if anything — that’s the whole reason the Title IX rules were put in place,” said Kimberly Lau, a New York City attorney who represents students in Title IX cases

Biden’s proposal is an important step in fulfilling his promise to reverse DeVos’ rules. He started the process last year when he ordered the Department of Education to review the rules, but the agency has been bogged down by a slow rulemaking process.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/title-ix-regulations-number-history-of-day/11990178/ Title IX protections have been expanded in the Biden administration’s new proposal to mark the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Rights Act

Dais Johnston

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