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A DeVos Department of Education Legacy

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 15, 2021 | 0 Comments

Secretary Betsy DeVos's resignation at the Trump Administration's end brought more of the hostile press reaction that characterized her U.S. Department of Education tenure. DeVos, a philanthropist and education reformer, was a lightning rod for controversy from the moment of her nomination. At her resignation, predictable media sources promptly labeled her legacy as polarizing, contentious, and doomed to swift regulatory overturn by the new Administration.

Most seem to agree that DeVos's legacy shows her acting consistently with the commitments for which the president nominated her. For example, in February 2017, her Education Department, along with the Justice Department, rescinded the Obama Administration's May 2016 guidance requiring schools to allow transgender students to choose their bathrooms and locker rooms. In 2018, following a commission report on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, DeVos's Education Department rescinded the Obama Administration 2014 guidance that had addressed discriminatory patterns in school discipline under zero-tolerance policies adopted after the passage of the Gun Free Schools Act. DeVos also supported massive cuts in Education Department funding, consistent with her commitment to return control to local bodies and schools.

Yet even to her critics, DeVos's greatest legacy lies in the area of student discipline, an achievement her Department earned through arduous Title IX rulemaking that a new administration may not find so easy to overturn. Press reports summarize those complex DeVos regulations as first, giving students accused of sexual misconduct the hugely important right to confront and cross-examine their accuser. The regulations also limited sexual harassment's definition to that which is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, a definition significantly more strict and limited than many schools had previously imposed. And the regulations allowed schools to adopt a higher clear-and-convincing evidence standard than the lax preponderance standard schools had followed.

Clearly, students accused of misconduct have reason to embrace the DeVos legacy. An accusation alone is no longer tantamount to misconduct. The innocent remain so until proven guilty. Accusations must now stand up as truth, under cross-examination scrutiny. Conduct that reasonably appears to be consensual is so, and conduct that is objectively not harassing isn't so. Those things sound fair and reasonable enough even for critics to embrace that part of DeVos's legacy.

If your institution has accused you of sexual or other misconduct, don't let legacies give you false confidence. New federal rules only change Title IX procedures, not a school's own policies on sexual and other misconduct falling outside Title IX guidelines. Many institutions will hold fast to their prior commitments, effectively skirting the new federal rules. True, federal guidance no longer pressures schools to mete out quick discipline. But schools may still aggressively pursue misconduct charges to burnish their public image, satisfy student demands, and placate donors. Schools may still define misconduct largely as they wish for purposes of their own interests, outside federal oversight.

In sum, the DeVos Title IX regulations won't entirely stop false accusations. Nor will they end the efforts of institutions to railroad wrongly accused students. The new federal regulations just gave everyone, including the accused, accuser, and institution, clear, firm, and fair procedures for determining truth in federal Title IX cases. Reasonable persons can responsibly embrace at least that aspect of the DeVos legacy.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped innumerable clients whom colleges and universities have wrongly accused of various forms of misconduct. He has the experience and expertise to use your procedural rights to challenge, disprove, and defeat false allegations. The best and first action you can take when facing misconduct charges is to promptly retain and consult with experienced counsel. Receive your case evaluation now from the Lento Law Firm by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he has sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address school-related issues and concerns anywhere in the United States.

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