U.S. Department of Education revises Title IX

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The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced Friday it will be withdrawing two statements of policy and guidance for Title IX based on legal criticism through a Dear Colleague Letter.

It will begin developing a new approach to student sexual misconduct through a process with more public input, which the CSU system will be a “strong participant” in, according to a statement from Chancellor Timothy P. White.

The two documents being withdrawn are the previous Dear Colleague Letter regarding sexual violence from 2011 and a Q&A regarding Title IX and sexual violence from 2014.

“The 2011 and 2014 guidance documents may have been well-intentioned, but those documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students – both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints,” Friday’s letter read.

The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter extended Title IX requirements to sexual violence as well as sexual harassment and laid out procedural requirements for organizations receiving federal funding on disseminating official notices about commitments to not discriminate, designating Title IX coordinators and publishing grievance procedures.

It also established steps for schools to take proactive measures in preventing incidents of sexual misconduct.

The 2014 Q&A elaborated on and sought to “further clarify the legal requirements and guidance” of the 2011 letter as well as the Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance from 2001.

“The department imposed these regulatory burdens without affording notice and the opportunity for public comment,” Friday’s letter read.

As a result, OCR will be working on a new policy “that aligns with the purpose of Title IX to achieve fair access to educational benefits” based on more integrated public comment and the concerns of stakeholders.

OCR referred to a Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct released alongside Friday’s Dear Colleague Letter, its Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance from 2001 and a Dear Colleague Letter from 2006 for Title IX enforcement policies and regulations that will still be relevant while the process of setting up new guidelines is ongoing.

“In the 45 years since the passage of Title IX, we have seen remarkable progress toward an educational environment free of sex discrimination,” Friday’s letter read. “The Department remains committed to enforcing these critical protections and intends to do so consistent with its mission under Title IX to protect fair and equitable access to education.”

White’s Friday statement in response to the Dear Colleague Letter said the CSU system will “ensure our values are represented at the table” while new sexual misconduct guidances are developed.

“As we wait for OCR’s process to unfold, I assure you the CSU’s existing policies will continue to protect our students and employees, and provide a fair process to all,” White’s statement read. “Today’s letter from the OCR does not change CSU’s approach because compassion and fairness to all parties is a bedrock of our existing policies.”

White said the CSU system continually reviews its policies and will “not be deterred” from providing more safe, fair, compassionate and equal opportunities to university communities.

CSUF Chief Communications Officer Jeffrey Cook said in an email that he has not had the opportunity to discuss these developments with colleagues as of Saturday, but that he is confident CSUF will participate in the CSU system’s effort to have a voice in the process.

“This issue is very important to us as we continue to combat sexual harassment and sexual violence,” Cook said in an email. “I would echo the Chancellor’s comments that we remain committed to ‘fairness, compassion, and equal opportunity’ at our university.”

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