DeVos' New Rules Give University Students More Rights To Defend Themselves Against Sexual Assault Allegations

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced new rules governing on-campus administrative proceedings involving sexual assault. These new rules will function to broaden the due process rights owed to accused students and narrow the scope of conduct that universities are required to investigate. In particular, DeVos’ new rules require universities to hold a live hearing with cross-examination of the alleged victim, more on par with state or federal judicial proceedings. The new rules also narrow the scope of conduct which can be deemed to constitute “sexual harassment,” requiring such conduct to be “severe,” “pervasive,” and “objectively offensive.” Finally, the new rules allow universities to employ a higher evidentiary burden, requiring “clear and convincing” evidence of the accused’s guilt, rather than the previous “preponderance of the evidence” (“more likely than not”) standard.

These changes come as a likely response to numerous successful lawsuits brought against universities in recent years, claiming failures by the universities to uphold the accused’s due process rights and presumption of innocence. These rule changes take effect on August 14, 2020.

At Nathans & Biddle LLP, we have observed a growing need for effective legal counsel for students, teachers, and academic employees. Maryland schools, colleges and universities have changed dramatically over the last few decades.

Our Baltimore academic proceedings practice is headed by lawyer Booth M. Ripke, who has successfully represented students at a number of nationally recognized institutions during contested disciplinary proceedings. In prior cases, Mr. Ripke has successfully assisted students in avoiding academic disciplinary sanctions despite charges of harassment, drinking, substance abuse, and confrontations with law enforcement. Mr. Ripke has also represented clients in cases involving dishonesty, forgery and potential loss of scholarships.

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