When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered her Title IX address last Thursday at George Mason University, many expected the Department of Education was about to revoke the agency’s guidance set forth in the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. Instead, she announced that the Department’s guidance would be subjected to a notice and comment process to allow stakeholders the opportunity to offer input about how Title IX should best be enforced.
In subsequent interviews, Secretary DeVos revealed that the Department would be replacing the 2011 guidance with a new set of interim rules until the notice and comment process could run its course. For additional information about her actions, click here. For the moment, the nature of those interim rules and other actions by the Department remains unclear.
Nevertheless, Secretary DeVos’s comments about Title IX in her remarks at George Mason and her other recent public comments suggest several themes will be a part of both the interim and permanent guidance:
- The general commitment toward reducing campus sexual assaults will continue.
- Due process protections for all participants in campus Title IX investigations, hearings, and appeals will be strengthened.
- Whatever regulatory or sub-regulatory action may be taken by the Department of Education, it must be consistent with the VAWA amendments adopted by Congress in 2013.
- Much of the 2011 and 2014 guidance pertaining to reporting, education, and training will continue.
- The only certainty for Title IX coordinators and college administrators is uncertainty.
Until the passage of time provides greater clarity, members of the higher education community should consider what feedback they could offer as the Department begins the anticipated notice and comment period. No one understands better than the Title IX coordinators and their colleagues what works well and what works poorly. Their informed perspective is vital to improving the Title IX campus process for all concerned.
For further information on the evolving Title IX environment, contact any member of the Steptoe & Johnson PLLC Higher Education Team.