Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Sept. 22 the Trump administration is formally rescinding Obama-era guidance on school sexual assault under the Title IX federal law.
Title IX, a 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, applies to all educational institutions receiving federal funding. The law has since been interpreted to address sexual violence among students, specifically on college campuses.
In a letter issued by the Obama administration in 2011, the “Dear Colleague Letter” provided instructions on how schools must investigate and resolve accusations of sexual violence or risk losing federal funding under Title IX.
Expressing concern over the due-process of the previous administration’s guidelines, DeVos described the “preponderance-of-the-evidence standard” as the “minimal standard of proof in administering student discipline” in a letter announcing the repeal of the previous initiative.
“Any school that refuses to take seriously a student who reports sexual misconduct is one that discriminates,” DeVos said in a speech Sep. 7 at George Mason University in Virginia. “And any school that uses a system biased toward finding a student responsible for sexual misconduct also commits discrimination.”
Brooklyn Boreing, public relations junior and co-president of the student-led advocacy organization of Not on my Campus, said she is worried about the implications of the both sides approach the current Education Department is proposing.
“I am a survivor and I work consistently with survivors and advocates,” Boreing said. “I am definitely concerned that this administration is focusing a lot on those accused more than they are helping out those who have been victimized or those personally affected by this, and I think that is something we need to look into. Because if you look at the statistics, the amount of those who are wrongly accused are incredibly low compared to those who do report and get nothing in return.”
According to Texas State’s Office of General Counsel, 185 reports of sexual misconduct were reported this year while 13 cases are still active as of Sep. 22, 2017. These numbers are nearly double the amount of reports submitted in 2015.
Dr. Gilda Garcia, Title IX Coordinator for Texas State, believes the rise in reports is indicative of a smoother and safer reporting process for staff and students on campus.
“Every year since our policy was implemented in 2014, we’ve been doing as much as we can to help educate and explain the mandatory reporting requirement,” Garcia said. “Even though it looks like there is an increase in the number of reports, I think it means that more people are working in trying to make this a safe place.”
It is important to note the rise in reports does not necessarily indicate the number of cases open and investigated. Anonymous reports and lack of information can complicate further investigation.
“For a report to turn into a case, we have to have the relevant information like names and the complainant and witnesses, and very often we don’t get names, it is reported anonymously,” Garcia said.