COC evaluating policies following new, interim Title IX guidance


The U.S. Department of Education rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance on Title IX and campus sexual assault Friday, replacing it with interim guidelines on how schools should investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct.

The decision followed an announcement made by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Sept. 7, stating that the previous administration’s stance “weaponized the Office of Civil Rights” and did not protect the due-process rights of the accused.

“This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly,” DeVos said in a statement. “Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on.  There will be no more sweeping them under the rug.  But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes.”

DeVos’ decision withdrew Obama-era instructions from 2011 and 2014 that allowed colleges to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard for investigations.

Now, colleges are able to choose between the previous standard and the “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which is harder to meet.

The temporary guidance also removes the time frame to complete investigations and allows colleges to pursue mediation instead of an investigation.

College of the Canyons (COC) said it was reviewing its Title IX policies and procedures following the news of the interim guidelines.

“We’re reviewing the changes announced today, and we’ll be evaluating our policies and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with Title IX,” COC said in a statement to The Signal.  “As always, we remain committed to creating the safest learning environment possible for our students.”

These temporary guidelines will remain in place as the Department of Education gathers input from schools, experts and other stakeholders during a notice-and-comment process.

It is likely the new, official regulations will provide equitable rights to all parties involved in sexual misconduct investigations, as described in the interim guidance.

Under these regulations, both parties must be offered individualized services like counseling, class modifications and leaves of absences, and both parties should have the right to an attorney, cross-examine parties and submit questions.

“As I said earlier this month, the era of rule by letter is over,” DeVos said.  “The Department of Education will follow the proper legal procedures to craft a new Title IX regulation that better serves students and schools.”

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