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What the Trump administration’s Title IX changes mean for survivors and the accused

The Trump administration has released a highly debated and long-anticipated blueprint for responding to sexual assault and harassment in schools. Issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the rules outline how student allegations of sexual misconduct must be dealt with for schools to remain in compliance. The New York Times’ Erica Green joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the significance of the changes.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Some of the most highly debated and awaited new rules around sexual assault and harassment on campus were made public by the Trump administration today.

    The rules, issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, lay out how schools, both in higher education and in lower grades, should deal with and investigate those allegations by students.

    As Amna Nawaz tells us, the new Title X guidance replaces Obama era rules on how campuses should respond.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, the new rules are a new blueprint for students to file allegations wherever they attend school, but they also increase protections for students and faculty accused of sexual assault on campus.

    As part of that, the government is requiring colleges and universities to hold hearings and cross-examinations involving both the accused and the accused.

    Erica Green has long been covering this for The New York Times. And she joins me now.

    Erica, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    And let's jump in to explain to people exactly what is different. The old guidance basically left it up to schools to navigate how and when and if they move forward to proceedings.

    How do the new rules change that old guidance?

  • Erica Green:

    The most significant change is that these new rules are law. They have the force of law.

    The previous rules issued under the Obama administration were in the form of guidance. So that's akin to recommendations. We advise you to do this in order to be compliant.

    These rules are the law now. They lay out concretely what schools must do in order to fulfill their obligations under Title IX and avoid investigations, and, at worse, the loss of federal funding.

    They are obligated to hold live hearings, in the college context, not in K-12. They are required to allow cross-examination. Students cannot question each other, but advisers and attorneys, if they choose, may do so.

    They have to allow appeals. They have to allow both the accuser and accused to have access to virtually every piece of evidence, every piece of paperwork.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Over the years, we can all recall high-profile cases in which colleges and universities were under fire for not doing enough to respond to allegations of sexual assault or rape on their campuses.

    You think back to one of the highest-profile cases, right, Chanel Miller, who was sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus. Under these new rules, how would a case like that play out? Do fraternity parties count as something the school's responsible for, off-campus parties?

  • Erica Green:

    Yes, it really clarifies that point in particular, which was actually a huge sticking point for both due process advocates and victims rights advocates.

    The department initially proposed that schools would not have any control over houses, buildings, any area that wasn't within their campus setting or that they, frankly, wouldn't know or have any control over what happen in that particular context.

    A significant change in the final rule is that schools now have to — do have to be responsible for any activities that happen off-campus in a building or location that it controls or patrols, in any activity that it has some kind of substantial control over, whether it be a field trip or students going to an academic conference.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It's worth reminding people, one-third of all American women experience some kind of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Very few actually ever press charges.

    For those who have studied those trends and are looking at these new rules, what kind of impact do they think these new rules will have on people's willingness to come forward with allegations in the future?

  • Erica Green:

    Victims rights' advocates, women's groups who study this, researchers, academics truly do believe that it will absolutely have an impact and a chilling effect, to some extent, on the number of reports that colleges are going to see.

    Just like in the law enforcement context, alleged victims are not going to subject themselves to being cross-examined and going through the legal process.

    I mean, if you think about how many women or — and men, victims who want to avoid going to the police, so that they can avoid court, many people are anticipating that students will want to avoid any courtroom-like or legalistic process that could be retraumatizing for them or not work in their favor, which could also be a deterrent.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Such an important topic.

    And we thank you so much for being with us to explain it all. That's Erica Green of The New York Times.

  • Erica Green:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And a note: When I introduced this story, I meant to say Title IX, but I said Title X.

    My apologies.

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