Enforcing the law against sexual assaults: the Colleges’ case

Enforcing the law against sexual assaults: the Colleges’ case

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos kicked off her weeklong tour at the Woods Learning Center in Casper, Wyoming, Tuesday. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

How should the colleges act?

DeVos does her job: Due process on campus

Rape is a crime. This rather obvious observation seems to have eluded critics of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who last week rescinded the Obama administration’s guidelines to colleges on how to handle sexual assault allegations.

In yet another overreach of his executive authority, Obama’s Education Department sent a letter to schools in 2011 threatening to withhold federal education funds unless those schools handled such allegations the way Washington saw fit. Specifically, it directed colleges to determine guilt using the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which would never be allowed in a court of law.

The thin legal argument was that failure to prevent and punish sexual assault on campus violated the school’s Title IX responsibility to provide equal access to education. The result was a serious breach of due process for those accused of sexual assault.

Rape and sexual assault should not be tolerated, whether on a college campus or elsewhere. But as with all crimes, we must never put a burden on the accused to prove innocence. False allegations ruin lives. Regretted hookups and bad breakups are adjudicated in campus kangaroo courts, where an accused student has few rights, and university officials fear the loss of federal money if they fail to mete out sufficient punishment.

Colleges must work with law enforcement to investigate sexual assault, not become a stand-in for the American legal system.

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