The Trump administration has finally provided more information about the much-anticipated roll-back of Title IX enforcement. In a strongly-worded speech, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on September 7th that the Department intends to “repeal and replace” the April 2011 Dear Colleague Letter.
Though the details of the Department’s planned changes are still unclear, the tone of Secretary DeVos’s speech certainly was not. She emphasized her priority remains to enforce federal gender discrimination law and to “vigorously address” how educational institutions should prevent and adjudicate sexual misconduct allegations. However, she characterized the current approach – shaped by the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter – as doing “a disservice to everyone involved.” She emphasized the need for due process and procedural fairness for all students, but emphasized her concerns that accused students are not always provided sufficient procedural protections. She focused her criticism of the Obama era enforcement strategy as too heavy-handed, as relying too greatly upon “intimidation and coercion” of institutions, and for creating “quasi-legal structures” ill-equipped to provide appropriate procedural safeguards for all students involved.
Secretary DeVos’s speech did not provide details of impending changes, but here is what we can discern from her remarks:
Drummond Woodsum will continue to closely monitor communications from the Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights. We are available to guide you as further information becomes available, in assessing best practices for addressing sexual misconduct; revising policies and processes; developing clear and appropriate communications for students and others on campus; and training. If you have questions or would like to discuss the services we offer, please contact Ann Chapman, Drummond Woodsum’s Higher Education Practice Group Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-727-1941, Ext. 544.