Education Department Weighing New Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies

by | August 30, 2018

By Megan Cerullo

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is developing new policies around campus sexual misconduct that would enhance protections for students accused of assault while also shielding colleges and universities from liability.

The proposed rules -- which could change before they're made public -- would limit institutions' accountability by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, The New York Times reported.

The term would only include "unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school's education program or activity," according to the report.

Obama-era guidelines defined the act as "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature."

Under the proposed new rules, institutions would only legally be required to investigate formal complaints and respond to reports of which officials have "actual knowledge," The New York Times reported.

Also under the new rules, schools would only be required to investigate incidents reported to have taken place on campus, and not in off-campus housing.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said Wednesday that the department is "in the midst of a deliberative process" and that any information about the proposed rules "is premature and speculative" The New York Times reported.

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