President Joe Biden will issue an executive order Monday directing the Education Department to review its regulations and policies so they “consistently guarantee education free from sexual violence” — a move that could reverse Trump-era policies enhancing protection for students accused of sexual assault.
In a press call Sunday evening, administration officials did not specify what policy changes could arise from the review. But they did note that the order will specifically instruct the Education Department to review the regulations issued by the previous administration regarding sexual misconduct on college campuses.
“All students should be guaranteed an educational environment that’s free from discrimination, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” an administration official said.
Under former President Donald Trump, the Department of Education’s regulations — issued under Title IX, a federal law barring sex-based discrimination at schools receiving federal funding — increased protections for people accused of misconduct. Those Title IX regulations replaced rules instituted by the Obama administration that were meant to protect survivors’ rights.
The Trump regulations, which took effect in August, allowed schools to raise the standard of evidence to find someone guilty of misconduct, from “a preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing.” They also required colleges to hold a live hearing in misconduct cases in which both parties are subject to cross-examination — a change that survivors rights’ organizations note could deter people from reporting misconduct.
The Trump regulations also significantly narrowed the definition of sexual misconduct, so that behavior had to be “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.”
The process of undoing regulations and issuing new ones can take months, so it’s unclear when the Biden executive order would result in changes.
Beyond the Title IX regulations, Biden is also expected to sign an executive order officially establishing the Gender Policy Council, which will advise the president on gender equity and help shape domestic and international policy.
The council — which will include six people, including co-chairs Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso — is not a funded program or agency, but will be directed to coordinate across various government departments to promote gender equity, officials said on Sunday night.
The council’s priorities will include addressing sexual harassment, combating economic inequities that particularly affect women of color, expanding health care access and preventing gender-based violence. The council will also address forms of discrimination that affect LGBTQ+ people and other gender-based inequities, officials said.
“Gender discrimination can happen to people of all genders, and we intend to ensure that we address inequalities that affect people of all genders,” a Biden official said. “There will be a focus on women and girls and particularly women and girls of color. … But the choice of the name of the council as ‘Gender Policy Council’ is really intentional.”