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DeVos: Process to rescind ‘Dear Colleague’ letter has begun

By September 8, 2017

In a passionate speech at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School yesterday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that the Department of Education would be revisiting its approach to enforcing Title IX in order to ensure better outcomes for survivors of sexual assault and fairer procedures for all. We were happy to hear the Secretary unequivocally declare that “the era of ‘rule by letter’ is over” and that the department will be initiating a notice-and-comment process to formally solicit input from stakeholders.

Hours later, in an interview with CBS News, she further revealed that the Department is rescinding the April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, and that they have “begun the process to do so.”

For more than six years, FIRE has argued that the “Dear Colleague” letter trampled on students’ due process rights and undermined free speech on campus.

This is a long-awaited development for FIRE.

For more than six years, FIRE has argued that the “Dear Colleague” letter trampled on students’ due process rights and undermined free speech on campus. FIRE publicly led the fight for due process on campus. We literally wrote the book on it. (More than one, actually.) We also sponsored litigation arguing that the letter was issued unlawfully because it was issued without going through the notice-and-comment procedures required when agencies engage in rulemaking. And earlier this week, we released our first-ever (and probably the first-ever) report on due process at America’s top universities—an enormous undertaking. And those are just the highlights.

FIRE welcomes the news that the “Dear Colleague” letter is being rescinded, and we are equally grateful that the department will be moving forward with the process of crafting its replacement through formal rulemaking procedures that ensure that all voices and perspectives are invited to the table. We’re also thankful for the people and organizations who fought alongside us, and for the officials who made this possible, and we’ll be talking more about them in the days to come.

There is great reason for optimism that the new rules—developed, finally, with input from everyone—will improve how institutions handle allegations of sexual misconduct to the betterment of survivors and the accused alike. We stand ready to assist the Department of Education, as well as our nation’s colleges and universities, as this process moves forward.

Cases: U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights: Federal Lawsuit Challenges April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” Letter U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights April 4, 2011, Guidance Letter Reduces Due Process Protections