LOS ANGELES, California. The New York Times reports that a new campus sexual assault law will offer additional protections to those accused of sexual assault on campus while also protecting colleges from lawsuits from sexual assault victims. Under the new law, the definition of sexual harassment is changed to include only accusations made through official channels. The definition of sexual assault and sexual harassment is also more strictly framed to include only pervasive and severe harassment that interferes with the learning environment. Under the Obama administration, schools that received public funding could be held accountable for sexual harassment and assault that took place on campus. Obama administration rules also adopted a looser definition of sexual harassment and assault.
Critics of the Obama-era policies claim that the policies required schools to perform the function of law enforcement, a role for which many universities were ill-equipped. Individuals who were accused of sexual harassment or assault claim that there were cases where they were removed from campus and classes without due process. However, critics of the proposed laws believe that they will once again give colleges free reign to silence victims to improve their public images. Under the new law, the accused would be permitted to cross examine victims, a practice that Obama-era policies believed could lead to more trauma for victims.
Most alarming for survivors’ rights advocates is that the law will give schools the ability to provide support for students who choose not to make formal complaints. Some critics of this policy claim that it will lead to schools’ encouraging victims to not press charges or speak out. Schools often have a vested interest to report low incidence rates of sexual assault on campus. ProPublica has reported on cases where colleges were aware of reports of sexual assault and rape and yet took no action. In some cases, it wasn’t until victims committed suicide or turned to the media for help before schools took action. In other instances, perpetrators were only kicked off campus for a single semester or only a year, meaning they could return to school where they might encounter their victims again. Victims, in some cases, have had to drop out of school or transfer schools because they didn’t want to be on the same campus as their perpetrators.
Students who believe their rights have been violated have the right to file a Title IX complaint. Yet, if the law changes under Betsey DeVos, it could change which students have strong cases and which students are more likely to see their cases dismissed.
The Ledger Law Firm are personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles, California who are closely watching how the changes to the law will impact students who are assaulted or injured on college campuses. With students returning to school for the fall and with some parents dropping off their children on campus for the first time this year, parents have a right to receive transparent data about the rates of sexual assault and rape on campus. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident or due to the negligence, neglect, or violence of another party in downtown Los Angeles or elsewhere, you may have rights under the law. Visit us at the Ledger Law Firm today to learn more.

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