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DeVos Says Education Dept. Will Revisit Obama-Era Campus Sexual Assault Policies 

click to enlarge Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 6, 2017. - DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Doug Mills/The New York Times
  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, June 6, 2017.

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
© 2017 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos signaled on Thursday that she intends to take a hard look at whether the Obama administration’s campus rape policies deprived accused students of their rights, saying that “a system without due process ultimately serves no one in the end.”

The comments, DeVos’ first on the issue of how the Education Department will handle sexual assault on college and university campuses, came at a news conference after what she called a “really emotionally draining day” of meeting with victims, students who had been accused and higher education officials.

“It was clear that their stories have not often been told, and that there are lives that have been ruined and lives that are lost in the process,” DeVos said, referring to accused students. But she was careful to say that she intends to protect victims’ rights as well.

“We can’t go back to the days when allegations were swept under the rug,” DeVos said, “and I acknowledge there was a time when women were essentially dismissed. That is not acceptable.”

How to enforce Title IX, the 1972 law requiring schools to protect students from rape and sexual assault, is one of DeVos’ most difficult policy tasks, and her department has been under fire for comments made this week by Candice Jackson, who leads its Office for Civil Rights.

Jackson said that “90 percent” of sexual assault accusations on campus “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'" Jackson later apologized, called her remarks “flippant” and said they were based on feedback from accused students.

One major issue before DeVos is whether to rescind a letter issued in 2011 by the Obama administration that warned colleges and universities that they needed to take a tough stance on rape on campus or risk losing federal funding. Another question is whether her department will instruct schools to change the standard of evidence used to determine whether students are responsible for sexual assault.

DeVos did not reveal her plans but hinted she would take action soon.

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