New Proposal Redefines Sexual Harassment and Expands the Rights of the Accused
In an effort to prevent sexual assault on college campuses, 22 colleges in Michigan have received a one million dollar grant to share. The funding was provided through the Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program that was started by Michigan’s outgoing First Lady, Sue Snyder. The Michigan State Police administer the program with the goal of changing the sexual assault culture among college-age students.
The colleges receiving the funding are supposed to use the funding to develop new programs to help eliminate or deter sexual assaults on campus and increase student safety. This year has received the highest amount of funding from the program to date.
Federal Government Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus
In addition to the steps being taken by the Michigan state government, the federal government is also taking steps to change the laws around sexual assault on college campuses. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos recently released new guidelines on how universities and colleges should handle sexual harassment and assault.
The new rules from the Department of Education expand the rights of the students who are accused and decrease the types of cases that universities must investigate. The public has 60 days to comment on the new proposal before the rules can be finalized. The Department of Education says the new rules are grounded in rules of due process and they hope to encourage students to turn to their schools with sexual harassment issues, therefore reducing the risk of having students improperly punished.
The new rules will also change the standards used for proving allegations. Instead of needing a preponderance of the evidence, the rules will require clear and convincing evidence. Students will also have the ability to cross-examine each other through a third party or attorney. Both parties involved will also have the right to representation from an attorney.
In addition, the new rules narrow how sexual harassment is defined. The new definition is unwelcome conduct that is sexual in nature that is so pervasive, severe, and objectively offensive that the victim is denied access to activities of the school and education. Schools are still supposed to provide support to the victims, but can not punish the accused individual until that accused person is found at fault.
Administrators at colleges and universities will only be required to investigate allegations that are reported to designated officials, and these educational institutes will not have to investigate the reports if the victim does not ask them to.
You Get to Have a Say if You Are Accused of Sexual Assault or Harassment
If you are being accused of sexual harassment or assault, even before these new rules are implemented, you have the right to legal representation and the right to tell your side of the story. Sexual harassment and sexual assault can both have serious penalties with lifelong consequences, making it imperative that you have experienced legal representation on your side. The attorneys at Van Den Heuvel Law Office will listen to your side of the story and help defend your rights. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.