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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has recently drawn criticism for lending an ear to men’s rights groups and individuals advocating for the rights of those accused of rape, causing worry that the secretary of education may roll back Obama-era guidelines on how colleges should handle sexual assault.

Among those speaking out in alarm are 20 Democratic attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia who collectively wrote a letter to DeVos on Wednesday demanding she keep the Obama administration’s Title IX guidelines on sexual assault in place, according to Buzzfeed News. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who organized the letter, told Buzzfeed News that the 20 attorneys general were “prepared to take legal action” to protect Title IX and rape victims.

“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 said. “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.”

In the letter, the state attorneys general ask DeVos to keep in place the guidelines outlined in the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter affirming that sexual assault is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. The letter also demands that DeVos does not rescind a 2014 document expanding on the 2011 directives issued by the White House campus rape task force.

“While we recognize that there is a great deal more that can be done to protect students and agree on the importance of ensuring that investigations are conducted fairly, a rushed, poorly considered effort to roll back current policies sends precisely the wrong message to all students,” the letter reads. “Yet there is every indication that is exactly the approach your Department is taking.”

A portion of the letter also takes issue at comments Candice Jackson, acting assistant secretary for civil rights, made to the New York Times, in which she claimed that 90 percent of campus sexual assault allegations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk.’” Jackson later apologized and said her comment was “flippant,” but not before Democratic Sen. Patty Murray called for her resignation.

While the letter did not explicitly demand Jackson’s resignation, the attorneys general wrote that they “have serious concerns as to whether Ms. Jackson can be entrusted to oversee a fair, thorough process in evaluating the Department’s policies in this area.”

Several of the groups DeVos met with last week, including the National Coalition for Men and Families Advocating for Campus Equality, allege that the Obama-era Title IX directives provide harsh guidelines encouraging colleges to circumvent due process protections for students accused of sexual assault. Despite rhetorical attempts to paint the accused as victims, research has shown that only between 2 and 10 percent of rape accusations are false.

While groups advocating for the rights of the accused now have a sympathetic ear in the White House, the reality is that 88 percent of women who experience sexual assault still do not report the incident, according to the Cambridge University Student Union’s women’s campaign survey. For the women who do come forward, the investigations into their cases—whether conducted by law enforcement or the university—are often convoluted and emotionally and mentally draining. On the other hand, accused rapists rarely face conviction, and those who do often receive the equivalent of a slap on the wrist: Accused Stanford rapist Brock Turner received a mere three months for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.


Celisa Calacal is a junior writing fellow for AlterNet. She is a senior journalism major and legal studies minor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Previously she worked at ThinkProgress and served as an editor for Ithaca College’s student newspaper. Follow her at @celisa_mia.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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9 responses to “These Top Prosecutors Are Threatening Legal Action Against Betsy DeVos”

  1. FireBaron says:

    And our President loves it whenever one of his people come under fire, a it takes pressure off of him, for at least a news cycle. Unfortunately, part of that news cycle includes discussion of how Teflon Donnie surrounded himself with the most self-serving and underqualified Cabinet since the Harding administration.

  2. Locking up Betsy would be in our best interests, along with a host of others like her and cut from the same cloth.
    The charge should be something along the lines of “dereliction of duty to use one’s mind properly, free of the mischief of irrational ideas and ‘disingenuous morality’ “.

  3. Law 'n order says:

    The author is not following her own facts to their logical conclusion. She writes that “Despite rhetorical attempts to paint the accused as victims, research has shown that only between 2 and 10 percent of rape accusations are false.” Those numbers say that between 2 and 10 percent of accused ARE victims. They also say that false accusations are common enough to create a reasonable doubt in EVERY case.

    • Kevin Schmidt says:

      That’s not what the numbers say, that’s what YOU say. And it is you who does not follow her facts to their own conclusion.
      If only between 2 and 10 percent of accused are false, then there is a reasonable suspicion that the accused are guilty. Duh!
      If I knew my odds of being right were between 90 and 98 percent, in just a short time, I would own Vegas.

      • First off, if you read the fine print you’ll see that it’s 2-10% of allegations that are proven false. Big difference.

        Secondly, not all or even almost all not-false allegations are true. A false accusation is a lie. There are also things like mistaken identity, mistaken but reasonable belief that one communicated non-consent and mistaken but reasonable belief that one has obtained consent.

        Finally — let’s say that 90-98% of rape allegations are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So bloody what? 90-98% of people don’t need wheelchairs. 90-98% of people are both heterosexual and cisgender.

        • RB Glennie says:

          Yes, `so bloody what’ – according to your logic, ten percent of inmates in penitentiaries could be innocent of the crimes for which they are accused, but So Bloody What! We’re pretty sure the other 90% are guilty and so the system works perfectly. Why don’t you go educate yourselves about the modern justice system and the rights of the accused, due process and all that, after all it is only hundreds of years old, no reason for ignoramuses like yourselves to know.

          • RB Glennie, I’m guessing that either your response is intended for Kevin Schmidt, or I didn’t make my point clear enough.

            I’m saying that even if “only” 2-10% of accused people are innocent, it doesn’t matter. 2-10% is quite enough to consider it a serious problem and act accordingly.

        • Kevin Schmidt says:

          That is not a difference at all! You are quibbling over nothing but inconsequential semantics, like the half full half empty glass. You have failed miserably to discredit the author.

  4. RB Glennie says:

    It is no surprise that Democratic-party politicians are trying to make political hay out of this unjust and illiberal expansion by the previous govt of sexual discrimination law to destroy due-process protections for the accused in sexual assault cases – as has been shown in successful lawsuits launched by falsely accused students over the last couple of years. No wonder as well that this piece comes from `Alternet’, a trash-site equivalent to Brietbard or something to the right… hurry up and reform this injustice through administrative and regulatory procedures, it might even be the first smart thing that the Trump govt has actually done.

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