How are changes to sexual harassment rules working in schools
In May, the Department of Education made sweeping changes to title nine regulations Peter Medlin with W J reports on how colleges and universities are coming to terms with new policies. Many advocates in school officials say will chill reporting the new regulations changed the definition of what qualifies as sexual harassment under title nine to meet. The new standard harassment must be quote severe pervasive and objectively offensive. She Wa Patel is the Director of justice for students survivors at the National Women's law center. So these rules kind of in total really just turn title nine on its head as a civil rights law says they raised. The threshold of what schools can choose to ignore, and it's a departure from guidance that's been in place for wrong twenty years if a student isn't being outright denied equal access to a program or activity that might not be enough. So that means some substance would be forced to endure repeated an escalating levels of abuse before they can get help. The new rules also require institutions of higher learning to dismiss reports of harassment the happened off campus. Now, they'd had to put together a separate sexual misconduct policy to apply to those situations. This has ramifications for online harassment especially as many schools move to. More virtual instruction during the pandemic faith Ferber is a student engagement organizer with no your nine. She says, if someone's harassing you in a class zoom meeting that would be covered but if someone is sexually harassing you over facebook and then you have to see them in the zoom classroom that wouldn't necessarily be covered a northern Illinois University. Title Nine Coordinator. Sarah Gardner says they do have procedures to help students. We had the opportunity to see okay even though it doesn't reach this level of conduct how we address it as university but as faith ferber says the problem is that places like and I You could ignore those cases that they choose to, and she says, the Education Department isn't there to protect students either we can't count on our schools can't count on the government. So all we can count on is students and student power to really make a difference in holders schools accountable at a you students held protests last year on the basis of the university was mishandling investigations and the process was slow and apathetic. The university hired another coordinator and Garner says, they're much better equipped to handle their case load. Now, the new regulations are over two thousand pages two, thousand, thirty three to be exact and. The policies themselves fit into the last thirty pages or so the reason the document is so long as so that the Department of Education headed by Betsy Devos is trying to justify why the chains are needed and respond to public comments. She Wally catalysis says there were more than a hundred thousand comments mostly opposing the new rules they were school principal. There were mental health experts over nine hundred trauma specialists joined a letter and raised concern about the rule. So the significant opposition and yet they continue to move forward Sir Garner A, you were one of the many schools that Senate comets harshly not. Many concerns made it into the final regulations. Patel says, the provisions were largely unchanged from what was proposed, but there were also a few changes that weren't even in the proposed rule. So they didn't have a chance to comment. One example is that colleges and universities are now barred from dealing with complaints by people who aren't actively participating in an education program that means a school won't be allowed to investigate a complaint of sexual harassment if the survivor already graduated or they transferred or let's say they dropped out of school because they were sexually assaulted and they don't plan to re enroll and colleges. Could dismiss cases when the respondent who's being accused isn't enrolled or employed by the school but tell that could include professor who retires or who resigns after abuse comes to light. Another chain that wasn't included originally reiterates that the department's guidelines supersede any state law and some of the new title and changes are in conflict with Illinois. State Law one forces those going through an investigation to undergo cross-examination in a live hearing and as Sarah garnered I says, we have a state law that says, you cannot cross examiner one another. This is the price sexual violence and Higher Education Act however now, the federal. Regulations. You must cross examine each other in public comment. It stated that this quote turn educational centers into courts of law and allow for parties to be subjected to quote demeaning inappropriate, and irrelevant probing there waiting for the Illinois Attorney General. Kwami Raoul away in he along with seventeen other attorneys. General is suing the Education Department to block the final rules from going into effect. Garner says they'll find out if they have to proceed with the guidance on August fourteenth there are countless other issues advocates say make the process more difficult for the people involved and for the school conducting the investigation and Peter Mullen.