The U.S. Department of Education on Friday asked a federal court to put on hold for 90 days a lawsuit challenging hotly contested guidance from the Obama administration on campus sexual-assault policy, while the department reviews the guidance that is being challenged.
In 2011 the department’s Office for Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that ratcheted up pressure on colleges to deal with reports of sexual misconduct promptly and equitably. The letter argued that the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX compelled colleges to do everything possible to prevent assaults and to punish the perpetrators. Critics of that guidance have said that the directive pushed colleges to trample on the due-process rights of accused students.
Last year a University of Virginia law-school graduate sued the department over the guidance after being found responsible for sexual misconduct. Oklahoma Wesleyan University joined the lawsuit about two months later.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has met with sexual-assault survivors and accused students on the guidance, and has signaled that it needs to change. But she has not yet offered specifics on how her department might modify it.
In the motion filed on Friday, the department asked the court to hold the lawsuit “in abeyance for 90 days” because the civil-rights office was “reviewing the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter” that is at the center of the litigation.
The motion stated that the government had consulted with lawyers for the plaintiffs, who did not oppose the request.