Foothill-De Anza district to continue policies on Title IX despite De Vos2 min read

Despite Education Secretary Betsy De Vos’ rolling back of Obama’s 2011 Dear Colleague letter concerning Title IX violations, Foothill-De Anza District’s Title IX coordinators assure these changes will not affect the way sexual misconduct cases are handled on our campuses.

Title IX was originally passed in 1972 to combat gender based discrimination in federally funded colleges and universities, and over time has expanded to address cases of sexual misconduct as well.

In response to lots of Title IX violations not being handled efficiently at institutions, Obama wrote the “Dear Colleague” letter in 2011, urging colleges to crack down on cases of sexual misconduct and encouraging the use of the “preponderance of evidence” standard when handling these cases.

Preponderance of evidence refers to handling and addressing cases based on the accounts of the accuser and accused when “there is no witness, there is no evidence, no hard evidence, clothing or video, text messages, [or] emails,” said Stacey Cook, Vice President of Student Services and De Anza’s Title IX coordinator.

In an attempt to protect the rights of the accused, De Vos has revised the Dear Colleague letter to encourage colleges to use the “clear and convincing” evidence standard when handling Title IX cases instead of the preponderance of evidence standard.

“So the higher standard, clear and convincing evidence… means you have that text message along with an article of clothing that links that person to having committed this action,” Cook said. “It’s much more difficult to prove.”

“In the realm of Title IX we’re talking about sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence,” said Stacy Shears, Division Dean of Disability Support Programs and Services. “Are we ever going to be right there when these things are happening? No. Will there always be a witness that can corroborate what we’re hearing? No … I feel the Betsy De Vos declaration, her letter, is essentially kind of bringing us back to this like, ‘Well, prove it. Prove it happened to you.’”

Shears compared the situation of  De Vos and Title IX with that of Trump and immigration, saying that just because federal officials are taking a particular stance does not necessarily  mean that De Anza will comply.

“[If] ICE officers come to campus looking for students, good luck because this is not a place that’s going to be very open or supportive to that ICE mission of going after undocumented folks,” Shears said.

“We’re essentially ignoring the most recent version of the dear colleague letter,” said Pat Hyland, Director of Equity and Human Relations and Resources and District Title IX Coordinator. “We’re acting as if our responsibility is as stringent as the previous version.”