FIRE: Sen. Leahy Pulls OCR Standards From VAWA Re-Authorization

Glenn Ricketts

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education annnounced today that Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has withdrawn his proposal to incorporate the "preponderance of evidence" standard of proof from the current draft version of the Violence Against Women Act. This standard, as we reported here last month, was imposed on all college and university sexual harassment case procedures through bureaucratic decree from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Education. As we had also noted, the new "preponderance of evidence" test would have made it much, MUCH easier to return a guilty verdict, greatly diminished the due process rights of the accused, and actually provided the authorities with an opportunity to re-prosecute, should the accuser decide to appeal an acquittal. Leahy's amendment would have codified these procedures and given them statutory clout.

It's certainly good news, and we're happy to acknowledge FIRE's stellar leadership in bringing Leahy's proposal to public attention.

There's a long hard fight still ahead though, since OCR's stealth mandate of its Orwellian standards remains in place. Remember that the April edict affects all colleges or universities receiving federal funds, which OCR can cut off if it decides that a recipient is not in compliance with its creative enforcement of federal civil rights policies. And since OCR works largely under the public's radar screen, the most difficult and crucial part of removing these bizzare regulations remains to be done. Once again, I strongly urge you to write to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, specifically to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, which has oversight authority here. Volume counts, so the more the better.

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