Perhaps the midst of the Kavanaugh hearings and FBI investigation wasn’t the absolute best time to do this, but it had to be done sooner or later. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing to roll out new instructions for schools designed to clarify how they should be dealing with cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault. The previous system put in place by the Obama administration, in addition to allowing schools to set up kangaroo courts taking the place of actual courts of law, frequently resulted in people accused of serious crimes being left with no access to representation when fighting the charges. Among other things, these new guidelines will provide a more balanced playing field for both accusers and accused.
As usual, though details of the changes haven’t even been announced yet, liberals are up in arms screaming about how you need to believe the women. (Associated Press)
DeVos has argued that the policy put in place under President Barack Obama is skewed against the accused. She is expected to issue new rules in the near future.
At stake is whether schools should require higher standards of evidence when handling complaints and whether both parties should have access to that evidence. Also under review is the use of mediators and the possibility of the accuser and the accused cross-examining each other.
DeVos’ new guidelines are expected to address whether schools should have to investigate as soon as they are aware of alleged misconduct or only after a student files a formal complaint.
In general terms, assuming we’re forced to live with the underlying premise, the main goals DeVos is shooting for are admirable enough. If you’re going to accuse someone of a serious crime and the handling of that claim can have lasting repercussions for them for the rest of their lives, the normal level of legal representation is required (at a minimum). Simply having one person make an allegation is doesn’t constitute evidence, as many former students could, unfortunately, tell you.
Some of the other questions under discussion seem to be rather academic (if you’ll pardon the phrase) at first glance. Should a school commence an investigation the moment they hear any sort of information about a possible case of sexual harassment or assault? Or should they wait until a student files a formal complaint? The appropriate answer is… neither.
These issues being considered all rely on the premise that the schools are supposed to be handling reports of crimes to begin with. If someone has been sexually assaulted, whether they report it themselves or someone else speaks up, the first move is to contact the authorities. Even if the victim doesn’t want to report it, the school still has an obligation to let the police know and protect the rest of the girls on the campus even if the original victim doesn’t want to speak out. A failure to do so is failing the student body utterly.
And if the original allegation is false, the police and the courts can determine that as well. Then the accused student won’t have their name ruined forever and their educational track cut short.
What Betsy DeVos really needs to be looking at is a sweeping clarification of Title IX, defining precisely what is for and what it is not for. And one thing it is not for is to make collegiate kangaroo courts some sort of replacement for our established courts of law.