Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Thursday announced that the Trump administration is rolling back sexual assault guidelines issued by former President Barack Obama’s administration.
“The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” DeVos said during a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. “That’s why we must do better, because the current approach isn’t working.”
However while DeVos said the guidelines will be rolled back, she did not announce any new policies that would immediately be put in place to help combat sexual assault on college and university campuses across the country.
“Our interest is in exploring all alternatives that would help schools meet their Title IX obligations and protect all students,” DeVos said. “We welcome input and look forward to hearing more ideas.”
In 2011, the Obama administration told colleges and universities that they have an obligation under Title IX to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. If colleges and universities did not meet that obligation, the Obama administration threatened to pull their federal funding.
“If a school knows or reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence and address its effects,” the Obama administration told colleges and universities in a letter.
Former Vice President Joe Biden made campus sexual assault a pillar of his final years in the White House, speaking out in solidarity with victims of campus sexual assault as part of the It’s On Us campaign.
However the Obama-era guidance on sexual assault was met by outrage from Republicans, who viewed the policy as an overreach.
DeVos had been reviewing the policy since becoming Education secretary.
She met both with supporters of the policy and those who oppose it, including men’s rights advocates, who believe men are victims of systemic discrimination.
And she said in her speech that she felt for both victims of assault and those who had been falsely accused.
“We know this much to be true: One rape is one too many; one assault is one too many; one aggressive act of harassment is one too many; one person denied due process is one too many,” DeVos said, telling stories both of women who had been raped, and men who had been wrongfully accused.
And while she commended the Obama administration for helping “elevate this issue in public life,” she said that, “Good intentions alone are not enough,” saying her administration will be looking for “a better way” to deal with sexual assault.
“This conversation may be uncomfortable but we must have it,” DeVos said. “It is our moral obligation to get this right.”