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Senate Democrats Urge DeVos to Reinstate Obama Guidance on Sexual-Assault Policy

Democratic lawmakers are “extremely disappointed” in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s decision to rescind Obama-era guidance on campus sexual-assault policy, says a letter to her from 32 Senate Democrats.

“Your action on Friday shows a clear lack of concern for the many requests of survivors of sexual assault and members of Congress who have asked you to leave the previous guidance in place,” the senators wrote. Led by Patty Murray, of Washington, they said the new guidance was “already creating uncertainty and chaos for schools,” and asked that Ms. DeVos reinstate the previous guidance.

The Education Department last week rescinded its pivotal 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter and a 2014 question-and-answer document instructing colleges on how they should deal with sexual assault. That guidance started an era of stricter enforcement under the gender-equity law known as Title IX.

Last week the department replaced those documents with interim guidance. It plans to begin a process, known as notice and comment, to codify new rules on campus sexual assault. “This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly,” Ms. DeVos said in a news release.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The senators, however, joined the chorus of those assailing Ms. DeVos’s new guidance, in light of her criticism of the Obama administration’s practice of what she called “rule by letter.”

“If your goal is to produce new regulations rather than utilize guidance to inform stakeholders of their rights and obligations, it is incomprehensible that you would issue new, conflicting guidance as a part of that process,” the senators wrote. “We ask that you reinstate the previous guidance and make it clear that survivors’ voices will be heard throughout any rule-making process you decide to pursue.”

Read the full letter:


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