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New Title IX provisions will change procedures for educational institutions handling of sexual harassment and assault

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U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a May 2018 MLive file photo (courtesy photo).

West Michigan native and Calvin University (then Calvin College) graduate, Betsy DeVos, was named the Secretary of Education by the Trump administration and assumed office in February of 2017. Since her time in office, she has supported measures related to charter schools, school of choice, and promoting private education. 

In her most controversial legislation, DeVos outlined, in 2,000+ pages, measures for the Title IX rule and details parameters that K-12 and higher education institutions must follow regarding matters of sexual assault. These new measures were announced May 6 and go into effect Aug. 14. 

Critics are denouncing the new regulations, stating that more rights are being given to those accused of sexual misconduct. 

Schools are to “respond promptly and supportively” to allegations of sexual assault or harassment that are covered under Title IX law and “effectively implement remedies for victims.” Under the law, schools are now required to notify the students involved and their parents of knowledge of sexual assault or harassment. In writing, they will be provided information about the allegations and the evidence discovered.

This legislation will “restore due process in campus proceedings to ensure all students can pursue an education free from sex discrimination,” according to information released from the Secretary’s office. 

“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” DeVos stated. “This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process. We can and must continue to fight sexual misconduct in our nation’s schools, and this rule makes certain that fight continues.”

The Title IX coordinator at Grand Rapids Community College, Kimberley DeVries, said that it was “too soon” to provide comment on the specifications of the new legislation at this time as she is in the process of combing through the lengthy documentation. 

“GRCC is reviewing our policy,” DeVries stated. “If we need to make updates to incorporate the final regulations, we will plan to do that to ensure that our policies are compliant. The college is always trying to improve its processes to provide students appropriate support and resources, and to ensure that everyone has a safe environment to work and learn.”

The timing of this final ruling has come under question as some are claiming the extrardinary circumstances facing education should be at the forefront of DeVos’s agenda. 

“Our education system is facing an unprecedented crisis. But instead of focusing on helping students, educators, and schools cope with #COVID19, Secretary DeVos is eroding protections for students’ safety. #HandsOffIX,” a Tweet from the Democratic Committee for Education and Labor read.