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Judge Allows DeVos’s Due Process Rules for Campus Sexual Assault Cases to Take Effect

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos participates in a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 26, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial campus sexual assault rule will take effect on Friday after a federal judge dismissed an attempt from several state attorneys general to block it.

A District of Columbia circuit court judge on Wednesday denied a preliminary injunction to delay implementation of the Title IX rule, the Trump administration’s attempt to enhance due process for sexual assault cases in K-12 schools and on college campuses. Attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia sued over the rule, arguing that it would prevent schools from probing some sexual assault complaints and would have a chilling effect on students who want to report sexual abuse.

“As a result, fewer sexual harassment complaints will be filed, and schools will be less well equipped to protect their students’ safety and rid their programs and activities of the pernicious effects of sex discrimination,” the lawsuit claimed.

Judge Carl John Nichols ruled that the new rule may go into effect and said that while the attorneys general raised “serious arguments” regarding the rule, “they have not established a likelihood of success on their claims, nor have they established that they are likely to suffer substantial irreparable harm pending further litigation.”

“Plaintiffs are free to investigate and punish as violations of their codes of conduct or of state law behavior that does not meet the new definition of sexual harassment under the Final Rule,” the judge wrote.

The attorneys general also argued that the rule would hamper schools in their ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic and saddle them with heavy expenses, an argument Nichols also rejected. While the court recognizes the “obvious seriousness” of the coronavirus, the Education Department took the pandemic into account when it wrote the rule, and schools have been aware of the rule for a long time, the judge said.

DeVos praised the judge’s ruling on Wednesday, calling it, “yet another victory for students and reaffirms that students’ rights under Title IX go hand in hand with basic American principles of fairness and due process.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has promised to put a “quick end” to the rule should he become president, saying it is meant to “shame and silence survivors” and “gives colleges a green light to ignore sexual violence and strip survivors of their rights.”

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