New Campus Sexual Assault Rules Strengthen Rights of the Accused Student in School Hearings
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Education Department finalized a new policy that will reshape the way schools and universities respond to sexual misconduct complaints. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued rules to strengthen the rights of accused students, reduce legal liabilities, and narrow the scope of cases colleges are required to investigate. These investigations and hearing are often called “Title IX investigations and hearings.”
The agency started the overhaul in 2018 after revoking rules from the Obama administration that it says adopted a “failed system” that pressured schools to deny the rights of alleged perpetrators.
A New Sexual-Assault Policy on Campuses.
The policy changes narrow the definition of sexual harassment and require schools and universities to investigate claims only if they’re reported to certain officials. Colleges can be held accountable for mishandling complaints only if they acted with “deliberate indifference.” One of the more hotly contested changes is that students will be permitted to question one another during live hearings.
DeVos also said for the first time that dating violence, stalking, and domestic violence also must be addressed. and she added new language ordering schools to provide special support for victims regardless of whether they file a formal complaint.
Under the new rules, the definition of sexual harassment is narrowed to include “unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that it denies a person access to a school’s education programs or activity.
The Obama administration used a much broader definition that included any “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
For colleges, the new policy narrows the type of complaints they will be required to investigate. In sharp contrast to the Obama Administration, it orders colleges to pursue cases only if they’re reported to certain campus officials. Additionally, it says schools can choose whether to handle cases in off-campus areas that are outside their “programs or activities.”
Opponents of the law said the Obama rules forced schools to stop sweeping the issue under the rug and survivors will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault. In contrast, those supporting accused students said past laws tipped the scales in favor of accusers and caused unfair, hasty actions against the accused.
The changes take effect on August 14, 2020.
Unfortunately, these types of cases are not uncommon on college campuses, which is why this is such a hot button topic. Click here to read my recent blog on a similar case.
It’s About Time.
We have been involved in a number of cases brought alleging sexual harassment, sexual assault, absence of consent, date rape, and other similar allegations, under Title IX. Unfortunately, the deck has been always stacked completely in favor of the person making such accusations and the accused student has been given almost no due process of law rights. It is long past time for a change to these one-sided rules.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Medical Students, Residents, and Fellows.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents students, including medical students, dental students, nursing students, pharmacy students, resident physicians, and fellows, who have legal problems with their schools or programs. We also represent students, residents, and fellows in investigations, academic probation and suspensions, disciplinary hearings, clinical competence committee (CCC) hearings, and appeals of adverse actions taken against them. The Health Law Firm’s attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
“New campus sexual assault rules give accused students more rights, Betsy DeVos says.” CBS NEWS. (May 7, 2020). Web.
Binkley, Collin. “New campus sexual assault rules bolster rights of accused.” Associated Press (AP). (May 6, 2020). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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