Next Steps Announced in Changing Title IX School Sexual Assault Rules

Next Steps Announced in Changing Title IX School Sexual Assault Rules Next Steps Announced in Changing Title IX School Sexual Assault Rules Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. The Education Department is taking the next step to revise federal rules around campus sexual assault, paving the way for an overhaul of a polarizing Trump-era policy that President Joe Biden has vowed to reverse. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

By Brian Freeman | Tuesday, 06 April 2021 11:20 AM

In the first step of a planned overhaul of Title IX regulations established by the Trump administration, the Education Department announced plans on Tuesday to hold a public hearing on how schools should handle sexual misconduct cases, NBC News reported.

President Joe Biden vowed during the election campaign to do away with the Trump administration's rules after critics said the changes narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, and limited the incidents schools could investigate.

The Education Ministry described in a letter released Tuesday that the hearing is an opportunity for students, parents, school officials, and advocates to have their voices heard before the Biden administration proposes how K-12 schools and colleges receiving public funding must respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

The hearing will occur over multiple days and include a virtual component, a department official said, but a timeline has not yet been announced.

The letter further explains that following the hearing, the department will start a formal process known as "proposed rule-making" to rewrite the Title IX regulations, which would involve an additional round of public comments.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement on Tuesday that "today's action is the first step in making sure that the Title IX regulations are effective and are fostering safe learning environments for our students while implementing fair processes," according to NBC News.

Goss Graves, president of the National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, welcomed the announcement, saying that "This is a critical next step in protecting survivors in school and ensuring Title IX's promise of ending sex discrimination is realized."

Graves added, "I'd see this step as a victory and a testament to the student survivors who have continued to so bravely fight for campuses where they can be safe and treated fairly and with dignity."

The changes implemented in the Trump administration prevent schools from initiating Title IX probes into allegations of assaults that take place off campus, uses a narrower definition of sexual harassment compared to workplace standards, and requires schools to presume that accused students are innocent at the outset of investigations.

Victims' rights advocates widely condemned those changes, emphasizing that some elements — such as requiring colleges to allow accused students to cross-examine their accusers through third parties — would discourage people from reporting assaults at all.

However, advocates for accused students praised the Trump administration’s new regulations, which took effect this past August, saying that they ensured evenhanded responses to assault allegations on campuses.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit that focuses on due process on college campuses, said last month that it would even not rule out suing in order to block a Biden administration rewrite of Title IX rules.