Evidence standards changed for campus assault investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration is allowing universities to require higher standards of evidence when handling complaints of sexual assault on campus.

Women’s rights groups say the change will discourage students from reporting assault.

In scraping the Obama-era guidance, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the old policy had been unfairly skewed against the accused. She also said the Education Department had become “weaponized” to “work against schools and against students.”

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos arrives at the dedication ceremony of Michigan State University’s new Grand Rapids Medical Research Center on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Cory Morse /The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

The guidance released in 2011 and then updated in 2014 instructed universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when assessing and investigating a claim of sexual assault.

DeVos’ interim guidelines let colleges choose between that standard and a “clear and convincing evidence” standard. Those rules will be in place while the Education Department seeks public comment and writes new guidance.

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