Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released interim guidance Friday on how colleges should handle sexual assaults on college campuses, the latest step in the Trump administration's controversial rollback of Obama-era guidelines, in an effort to better protect both victims and students who are accused.
The agency withdrew a 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter that required schools to adopt a minimal standard of proof — the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard — when disciplining students and replaced a 2014 question-and-answer document on how schools should investigate and adjudicate cases of sexual misconduct.
The temporary guidance is meant to serve as a placeholder while the agency crafts news guidance with a new standard through a rulemaking process that involves public notice and comment.
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Michael Dolce, a Florida-based attorney with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll who specializes in representing victims of school sexual assaults, said the agency's new guidance will discourage victims from reporting sex crimes. He called the agency move "reckless, unjustified and completely unnecessary."
"Weakening guidance about and enforcement of campus sexual assaults is a horrific step back for crime victims’ rights and for public safety more broadly," he said. "The move will also encourage colleges and universities to reduce, rather than increase, efforts to combat sex crimes — efforts that are already substandard and ineffective on numerous campuses across the country.”
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