Trump's Selection For Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Testifies During Her Senate Confirmation Hearing

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday a review of how the department investigates sexual assault in schools, saying it’s time to replace the Obama administration’s “failed system.”

Rolling back Obama-era guidelines

It’s a first step toward rolling back stricter Obama-era guidelines for handling sexual assault, potentially changing how the Department of Education handles hundreds of sexual violence cases brought by students at universities, colleges and K through 12 schools that receive federal funding.

In a speech Thursday to a group of about 100 invited guests at George Mason University’s law school outside of Washington, D.C., DeVos said the department will begin collecting comments from the public about its investigations of Title IX sexual violence cases.

“The current approach does a disservice to everyone involved,” DeVos said. “That’s why we must do better.”

She credited the Obama administration’s Education Department for spotlighting the issue of campus sexual assault, but said it “weaponized” the department’s investigative Office for Civil Rights, overlooking the rights of the accused and burdening school systems with confusing and elaborate guidelines for handling Title IX claims.

Sexual assault survivors concerned

Advocates for sexual assault survivors are concerned DeVos will ease guidelines put forward in 2011 that increased schools’ Title IX responsibilities for investigating and responding to sexual assault.

The 2011 guidance also led to a surge of Title IX sexual violence complaints filed at the Education Department from college and university students and from families of K through 12 students, a group that tends to receive far less attention.

The office was investigating 153 sexual violence complaints against K-12 schools as of Sept. 6. The cases are from students who report being sexually assaulted by other students, or by teachers, coaches and anyone else who interacts with them during the school day or school-related activities. They are in addition to the 360 unresolved sexual violence investigations involving colleges and universities.

Open investigations at Ohio universities

News 5 found there are 10 Ohio universities with active sexual violence investigations — totaling 19 cases. Three Ohio school districts also have open Title IX sexual violence investigations — including Berea, the Cleveland Municipal School District and North Olmsted.

The following universities have open cases:

  • Cleveland State University — One case opened Aug. 31, 2015. The complaint alleges that the university did not provide the victim with an equitable grievance process.” 
  • The College of Wooster — Two active cases, both opened in September of 2016. Read the Sept. 2, 2016 complaint here. Read the Sept. 29, 2016complaint here.
  • Denison University — Two open cases — One opened in March 2014 and one in April 2017
  • John Carroll University — One active case opened in June 2016.
  • Kenyon College — One active case opened in September 2016. 
  • Miami University — Three active cases: Nov. 3, 2016; June 9, 2017; June 9, 2017. 
  • Oberlin College — Two active cases: Nov. 24, 2015 and Jan. 9, 2017.
  • The Ohio State University — Three active cases: Aug. 12, 2015; Jan. 3, 2017 and July 31, 2017. The Jan. 3 case revolves around an alleged sexual assault by a university professor at an academic conference.
  • University of Akron — Two active cases: May 6, 2014 and May 25, 2017.
  • University of Cincinnati — Two active cases: Feb. 9, 2016 and Feb. 17, 2017.

The University of Akron statement:

We will review the Secretary’s comments in detail in the days ahead, but we want to reaffirm our commitment to maintaining a safe and welcoming campus that protects the rights of everyone, including both victims of sexual assault and those who are accused. This is a difficult balancing act as the two processes that are involved – the legal system and university policies and procedures –are conducted in different ways and venues.

Concerning the two Title IX complaints that have been filed relating to The University of Akron, we continue to cooperate with the Office of Civil Rights in the U. S. Department of Education and provide the Office with the information they have requested. Due to federal privacy laws affecting students, we are unable to discuss these matters.

Cleveland State University statement:

Cleveland State University strongly opposes and does not tolerate discrimination, harassment or sexual violence and has put in place polices to ensure a safe environment for all.

CSU cannot comment on open cases, but affirms that it adheres to its policies and commitment to respect and fairness in all matters.



Article Courtesy of WEWS News 5 Cleveland

Picture Courtesy of Chip Somodevilla and Getty Images

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