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20 Attorneys General Fight Betsy DeVos’s Attempt To Restrict Campus Sexual Assault Protections

The education secretary is considering dismantling Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault on college campuses.

Photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering dismantling Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault on college campuses. Earlier this month, she met with assault victims, students accused of assault, and attorneys to discuss sexual violence on college campuses. Also in attendance were members of men’s rights organizations with histories of intimidating rape victims.

The meetings came after Candice Jackson, the department’s top civil rights official, was criticized for comments that downplayed the growing problem of sexual assault on campus. “The accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of, ‘We were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Jackson said in an interview.

DeVos believes that Title IX victim protections should be altered to be more fair to students accused of assault. The Associated Press reported that Kerry Sutton, the lawyer representing a college football player who asserts he was falsely accused of sexual assault, was in the meetings earlier this month with DeVos and said, “They made the point that we’re not saying that sexual assault victims don’t have important rights. We’re just saying that the system has to be fair.”

On Wednesday, a group of 20 state attorneys general fought back against DeVos’s attempts to limit victim protections by sending a letter demanding the current guidelines remain in place.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with your Department to address the problem of sexual assault on America’s college campuses,” the attorneys general — led by Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro and New Mexico’s Hector Balderas — wrote to DeVos. “But any effort in this area must be deliberate and allow for meaningful input from all stakeholders, and it must focus on the ultimate goal of ensuring that all students are protected from discrimination, including sexual harassment, assault, stalking and domestic violence, under Title IX,” the letter continued.

“The 20 AGs who signed that letter were putting Secretary DeVos on notice that we support the current regulations, and if she rolls them back, then she will have us to deal with further,” Shapiro told BuzzFeed. When pushed to clarify, Shapiro replied, “We’ll see what actions she takes. What I can tell you is we are committed to ensuring these protections stay in place. And if need be, we’ll take legal action to try and protect victims.”

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