In a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the attorneys general of 20 states stressed the importance of keeping in place protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses that were implemented under former President Obama, saying that the Department of Education’s approach could signal to victims of sexual assault that they aren’t committed to “combat this epidemic.”
“While we recognize that there is a great deal more that can be done to protect students and agree on the importance of ensuring that investigations are conducted fairly, a rushed, poorly-considered effort to roll back current policies sends precisely the wrong message to all students,” the letter reads. “Yet there is every indication that is exactly the approach your Department is taking.”
The letter also mentions recent controversial comments from the head of the civil rights division at the Education Department, Candice Jackson, who claimed that “both parties” are usually under the influence of alcohol or drugs in campus sexual assault cases.
“The accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last [time] sleeping together was not quite right,’” Jackson told the New York Times.
Jackson also said male students are branded rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.” She later apologized for the comments, but the attorneys general expressed “serious concerns” that Jackson could “oversee a fair, thorough process in evaluating the Department’s policies in this area.”
“While we appreciate that Ms. Jackson has issued an apology, her comments communicate to survivors of campus sexual assault that the Department does not take their concerns seriously and that it is not committed to continuing its current efforts to combat this epidemic on our college campuses,” the letter said.