WASHINGTON– House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led a group of House Democrats Thursday to demand that the Republican-controlled Congress pass a law that would restore Obama administration provisions for handling sexual assault cases on college campuses that the Trump administration rescinded.
President Barack Obama had signed executive orders requiring colleges and universities to find an accused student guilty by a “preponderance of the evidence”—or over 50 percent— rather than “beyond reasonable doubt,” allowing accusers to avoid being cross-examined by the students they accuse and requiring schools to complete investigations within 60 days. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded those provisions in September, saying they did not afford due process to accused students.
“These folks put a target on Title IX’s back and we can’t let them do that,” Pelosi said at a news conference surrounded by leaders of the Femeinist Majority Foundation and other women’s advocacy groups. “They’ve been going after Title IX for a very long time.”
Pelosi was joined by Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier of California, who sponsored the bill, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Mark Takano of California, Ann Kuster of New Hampshire, and Lois Frankel of Florida.
“We will not go back to a time when a woman who was assaulted couldn’t come forward because she knew it would be swept under the carpet,” said Speier.
Some analysts disagreed, siding with DeVos that such a law would violate due process.
“If somebody I know and love is accused of rape, I wouldn’t want to see the probability that their life is ruined and dragged through the mud reduced to a coin flip’s chance,” said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “Especially if they can’t even cross examine their accuser, are denied access to counsel and aren’t given sufficient time to gather evidence.”
For the House Democrats, the provisions are necessary to protect sexual assault victims and their removal will empower those who commit sexual assault.
“This action by Secretary DeVos is a green light for predators,” said Kuster.
The Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment, but DeVos said in a September statement that her decision to rescind the provisions would lead to a more “fair and impartial” investigative process.