Betsy DeVos would not commit in a Senate hearing Tuesday to keeping federal rules in place for how schools must address sexual violence if she’s confirmed as secretary of education, or that she wouldn’t scale back federal Title IX investigations.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) used all of his time during a Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee hearing to ask DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, about what she’d do to address campus rape.
The Obama administration ramped up federal enforcement of how colleges address sexual violence, starting in earnest with a 2011 Dear Colleague letter that dictated key policies that schools must have in place. Those policies included how long school investigations of sexual assault cases should take, what standard of evidence to use, what information should be shared with the alleged victims and accused students, among other items.
DeVos, however, said “it would be premature” for her to commit to keeping that 2011 letter in place.
“I know that there’s a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that and, if confirmed, I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinions, and understand the views of the higher ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them, and I would look forward to finding some resolutions,” DeVos further told Casey.
DeVos declined to say whether the preponderance of the evidence standard, which means at least 50% certain of someone’s guilt, should be used in campus adjudications of sexual violence. Most colleges used that standard prior to 2011, but there were still some holdouts until the Education Department issued its Dear Colleague letter.
“If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and the current situation better, and to ensuring that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim, the rights of the victims as well as those who are accused as well,” DeVos said.
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