In an executive order, Biden directed the Education Department to examine rules that the Trump administration issued around Title IX, the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in education.
Biden directed the agency to “consider suspending, revising or rescinding” any policies that fail to protect students. Biden also signed a second executive order formally establishing the White House Gender Policy Council, which his transition team had announced before he took office. “The policy of this administration is that every individual, every student is entitled to a fair education — free of sexual violence — and that all involved have access to a fair process,” Jennifer Klein, co-chair and executive director of the Gender Policy Council, told reporters at a White House briefing. The Gender Policy Council aims to “ensure that the Biden-Harris Administration advances gender equity and equal rights and opportunity for women and girls.”
Both measures had been expected from Biden, who previously promised to put an “immediate” end to rules that were finalized last year by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Biden’s order for a review drew praise from civil rights groups that say DeVos’ policy has had a chilling effect on the reporting of sexual assaults, and also from colleges that say the rules are overly prescriptive and burdensome to follow. “This is an important step,” said Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “The Title IX rules changes that took place under the Trump administration are incredibly harmful, and they’re still in effect.”
DeVos’ policy made sweeping changes to the way colleges respond to sexual harassment and assault. Among other changes, DeVos’ rules raised the bar of proof for sexual misconduct and bolstered the rights of those accused, while also introducing new protections that for the first time ever include sexual harassment in the scope of the sex discrimination law. Title IX largely reestablished policies that existed prior to 2011, requiring schools to select one of two standards for evidence, either a “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence.”
One of the most controversial aspects of the rule was that those accused of sexual assault had the right to cross examine those who accuse them. Though the rule shields students from coming face-to-face, many advocacy groups for survivors of sexual assault argue the thought of a cross-examination is enough to prevent people from ever reporting an incident. Title IX also allowed anyone to report incidents, including the victim, friends, parents or a bystander, and held colleges and universities responsible for incidents that happen off-campus – though only if the school owns or is affiliated with the property.
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: THE BOSTON GLOBE