President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order directing the U.S. Education Department (ED) to review controversial Title IX regulations issued under the Trump administration and agency actions taken in regards to them.
It is seen as the first step for the Biden administration to undo regulations issued by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that went into effect last summer. The regulations govern how institutions must treat allegations of sexual harassment to be in compliance with Title IX.
The regulations were opposed by women’s groups, higher education associations and others. Last year, several states sued ED to delay the rules but two federal judges at the time declined to do so.
The Title IX regulations require community colleges to make extensive changes to their processes for handling sexual harassment and violence cases, the American Association of Community Colleges noted in a summary it produced last summer. In particular, institutions need to conduct live hearings with cross-examination by the parties’ representatives in Title IX cases that are formally pursued.
Reaction from Congress
Democratic leaders on Monday supported the president’s order.
“President Biden is working to reverse discriminatory actions taken by the previous administration’s Department of Education,” Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “Students should be guaranteed a safe education, protected from sexual harassment and assault. This is the first step toward reversing the outrageous policies carried out by Secretary DeVos.”
But some Republicans argued that changes to the regulations could curb the rights of the accused.
“By overturning these stakeholder-vetted, court-supported rules, key protections for victims and the due process rights of the accused would be jeopardized,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina), the ranking member on the House Education and Labor Committee.
A council to examine gender policy
The order was one of two the president signed on Monday. The other one will establish a White House Gender Policy Council to help advance general equity and equal rights for women and girls. Among its goals is to promote equity and opportunity in education and leadership, and to increase economic security and opportunity by addressing the barriers to women’s participation in the workforce, decreasing wage and wealth gaps, and addressing families’ caregiving needs.
The council will propose a government-wide strategy to address gender in policies, programs and budgets, and produce an annual report to measure progress on implementing the strategy.
The order, issued on International Women’s Day, helps to raise awareness regarding how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, DeLauro said.
“From risking their lives every day as frontline workers, to pausing their careers to care for their families, women have been forced to make remarkable sacrifices,” she said. “A staggering 2.5 million women left the workforce in 2020 compared to 1.8 million men, a decline that will take generations to overcome if not met with swift federal policy to help women return to the workforce.”