Illinois House Democrats join criticism of Title IX changes

Illinois Democrats have jumped to the defense of some Obama-era federal education rules they say are under attack by President Donald Trump’s Administration.

The proposed rule changes introduced last fall would bring about changes that the Department of Education says will make harassment complaints more transparent, consistent and reliable in their processes and outcomes.

Of the most significant changes is the allowance for cross-examination of an accuser by a lawyer representing the accused, something supporters say would stem the tide of large court settlements by universities for wrongfully punishing a student.

Critics, which now include Illinois’ state House Democrats, say the rollback of President Barack Obama’s more aggressive guidelines, would put accusers at a disadvantage in the nation’s schools.

“Here in Illinois we have taken important steps to allow all students learn and reach their full potential in an environment free of harassment, but the Trump administration’s extreme ideology is threatening to take our schools backwards,” House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said. “No student should face harassment in school, but the administration’s onerous new rules would silence survivors and create an environment where unacceptable behavior is ignored, excused or accepted as normal. We will not sit back and allow this to happen.”

Madigan’s House Democrats have been under criticism for mishandling a number of sexual harassment complaints in recent years, even allowing the office of the Legislative Inspector General, the lead statehouse ethics investigator, to sit vacant while complaints piled up and expired under a tight statute of limitations.

The changes also include a limiting of who would be able to field a harassment complaint among faculty.

Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said this would result in schools throwing out many harassment cases.

“Schools would be encouraged, even required in many cases, to be complicit in sexual harassment and sexual violence,” she said.

The 60-day window for public comment that ended Monday saw thousands of responses.

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Region: Statewide,Politics

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January 30, 2019 at 11:20AM

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