Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in an interview Thursday with CBS News’ Jan Crawford that she intends to rescind the Obama administration’s guidelines for Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sexual violence and discrimination based on sex.
In 2011, the Obama administration issued a letter from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights urging schools to aggressively investigate sexual assault or risk losing federal funding.
“The University of Maryland is steadfastly committed to a learning, living and working environment on campus that is free from sexual violence and misconduct,” university President Wallace Loh said in a statement. “We will continue to comply with the existing laws and regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.”
The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has launched two investigations at this university for possible violations in its responses to reports of sexual violence. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the government has conducted 435 investigations of colleges possibly mishandling sexual assault reports; 75 of these cases have been resolved and 360 remain open.
A former University of Maryland student that was expelled after the university found him responsible for sexual assault filed a lawsuit against this university Sept. 30 of last year, claiming his due process rights had been violated during the investigation.
DeVos spoke about Title IX during a talk at George Mason University, where she said the Obama administration overstepped its boundaries with the current Title IX law, which sometimes led to rights violations of people who have been accused of sexual assault, she added.
“Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach,” DeVos said Thursday. “With the heavy hand of Washington tipping the balance of her scale, the sad reality is that Lady Justice is not blind on campuses today.”
Following DeVos’s talk, the National Women’s Law Center issued a statement that said DeVos’s plan is “a blunt attack on survivors of sexual assault.”
“It will discourage schools from taking steps to comply with the law — just at the moment when they are finally working to get it right,” the center said. “And it sends a frightening message to all students: Your government does not have your back if your rights are violated.”
Former education secretary Arne Duncan, who served during most of Obama’s administration, also spoke out against the proposed changes.
“This administration wants to take us back to the days when colleges swept sexual assault under the rug,” Duncan said in a statement. “Instead of building on important work to pursue justice, they are once again choosing politics over students, and students will pay the price.”
However, Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told NBC News he supports the change, saying “the current approach has really badly undermined due process on college campuses.”
This story has been updated.