ATLANTA — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promised Wednesday she will balance the rights of the accused and accusers as she rewrites rules governing how universities handle allegations of sexual assault on campus.
A draft of those regulations bolsters the rights of the accused while reducing liability for universities.
“What I know is this country was founded on some basic principles, and we are committed to following the constitutional principles of this country,” she said on a visit to the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We want to do what’s right and just and fair for all students.”
DeVos declined to say whether she agrees with her boss, President Trump, who said Tuesday that men are often falsely accused. The president declared it a “very scary time to be a young man in America.”
“I’m a mom of daughters and sons,” the secretary said. “The framework for students needs to be fair and just for all parties.”
DeVos declined to say whether she finds credible allegations from Christine Blasey Ford that she was sexually assaulted by Brett M. Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, when they were teenagers in suburban Maryland.
“I am focused on the work we have to do on behalf of students, and that is where my focus is 100 percent of the time,” she said.
She said her department would issue regulations “very soon” that would govern how schools handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. In enhancing the rights of the accused, a draft of those regulations allows universities to insist on a higher standard of evidence in considering claims. It also narrows the circumstances in which universities must investigate claims.
A year ago, DeVos rescinded Obama administration guidance that had given more weight to those alleging misconduct.
At Georgia Tech on Wednesday, DeVos was met by a few dozen protesters, including some complaining about her approach to sexual assault on campus.
Clarissa Brooks, a senior at Spelman College, joined in the demonstration and stood in front of DeVos’s car as it left a parking garage. A police officer moved her out of the way so that the vehicle could proceed. Asked why she was there, Brooks said, “I’m looking at the Kavanaugh case and the way the Trump administration doesn’t care about sexual assault and sexual violence on campus.”
DeVos was at the start of a three-day “rethink schools tour.” She said her approach to sexual assault rules will be evenhanded.
“What we know is one sexual assault is one too many,” she said, “and we are committed to ensuring campuses have the right framework to know what their responsibilities are, and that students will be able to count on a process that considers those who have survived or have been victims of assault and those who have been accused. That a process is fair and just for everyone involved.”