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On May 6, 2020, the United States Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took steps to strengthen protections under Title IX for survivors of sexual assault. It requires due process on all campuses so that students can obtain an education free of sexual harassment and discrimination. This is the first time in the history of Title IX, passed June 23, 1972, that the statute redefines sexual harassment.

Secretary DeVos said the following in a press release:

Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault. This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process. We can and must continue to fight sexual misconduct in our nation’s schools, and this rule makes certain that fight continues.

What does this mean for schools?

Universities and colleges all across the country will be required to follow the new regulations set forth by Title IX by August 14, 2020. Schools must offer hearings for victims of sexual harassment or discrimination as well as those who are accused of the same. Advisers of the students involved will be permitted to cross-examine witnesses and other parties involved in the incident in question.

Schools must also consider all those accused of sexual misconduct innocent until the proper investigation occurs. This is a direct change from guidance that led to many students being incorrectly accused and removed from campus without proper investigations.

The changes to Title IX help to protect students who fall on both sides of a complaint, according to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Assistant Secretary Kenneth Marcus: “It marks the end of the false dichotomy of either protecting survivors, while ignoring due process, or protecting the accused while disregarding sexual misconduct. There is no reason why educators cannot protect all of their students – and under this regulation there will be no excuses for failing to do so.”

The impact on a civil lawsuit

The new regulations set forth by the Department of Education for Title IX could have an impact on civil lawsuits filed by survivors of sexual assault or discrimination. With the accused in these cases now having more rights under the expanded regulations, it could be more difficult for a victim to move forward with a civil lawsuit if the accused has been cleared of any wrongdoing after an investigation conducted by the school.

Have you been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination at your college or university? It’s important that you speak with an experienced Phoenix sexual harassment attorney from the team of Plattner Verderame, P.C. as soon as possible. Call our office at 602-266-2002 or complete a contact form online to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Phoenix and Tempe to better serve our clients.