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Sexual assault standards in schools may change

Proposed rule changes would provide greater rights to students in New York or elsewhere who are accused of sexual assault. During the Obama administration, schools were encouraged to use a preponderance of evidence standard in such cases. This means that a person could be found guilty of sexual assault by a school if it seemed more likely than not that it occurred. The changes proposed by Betsy DeVos would allow schools to choose their own standard of proof.

It may also be possible for students to use mediation as a means of resolving disputes regarding sexual harassment. Under previous rules, mediation was discouraged as it was thought to be potentially traumatizing to a victim. Schools would only be held liable in cases where a sexual assault took place on its campus. Furthermore, it would only be liable in cases when it had knowledge of the event.

Therefore, a school may not be responsible for an assault that happened during a frat party or other event off school grounds. In the event that an investigation occurs, schools would only violate the law if they failed to take reasonable actions based on the circumstances. The Department of Education said that it had no comment about the possible rule changes. However, it did say that the changes were speculative in nature.

Those who are accused of sexual assault or other crimes are granted protections under state and federal law. Typically, being accused of a crime does not negate a person's civil rights, and an individual is only guilty after being proven so. An attorney may be able to help a person defend against an allegation of sexual assault. This may be done by casting doubt on witness testimony or physical evidence used in a case.

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