Biden Vows to Reverse Rule Strengthening Protections for Students Accused of Sexual Assault

May 7, 2020 Updated: May 7, 2020

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who faces an accusation of sexual assault, said he’d reverse a rule promulgated this week that strengthens protections for students and others accused of sex assault at or near colleges if he’s elected president.

“Survivors deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced,” Biden, 77, said in a statement.

“This new rule gives colleges a green light to ignore sexual violence and strip survivors of their rights. It lets colleges off the hook for protecting students, by permitting them to choose to investigate only more extreme acts of violence and harassment and requiring them to investigate in a way that dissuades survivors from coming forward.”

Biden’s campaign has been roiled by accusations from Tara Reade, a former staffer who filed a complaint claiming Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when he was a senator.

Biden denied the accusation last week while refusing to call for the release of records that might shed light on the matter. Other records, held by the Senate, cannot legally be disclosed, according to Senate lawyers.

The new rule requires schools to select one of two standards of evidence, the preponderance of the evidence standard or the clear and convincing evidence standard—and to apply the selected standard evenly to proceedings for all students and employees, including faculty.

tara reade
Tara Reade poses for a photograph during an interview in Nevada City, Calif., on April 4, 2019. (Donald Thompson/AP Photo)

Schools must also give the accuser and accused an equal right of appeal during a Title IX proceeding. Other measures include defining sexual harassment to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex; and requiring that schools offer clear, accessible options for reporting sexual harassment.

“This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement.

Title IX was passed in 1972 and protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Biden claimed the rule disregarded students’ civil rights under Title IX and vowed to reverse it in January 2021 if he becomes president.

“I’ll be right where I always have been throughout my career—on the side of survivors, who deserve to have their voices heard, their claims taken seriously and investigated, and their rights upheld,” he said.

Erin Perrine, a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, said in a statement that Biden “was unwavering in a presumption of guilt for the accused including Brett Kavanaugh” before the Reade accusation came to light.

“That presumption of guilt included the disastrous Title IX regulations under the Obama-Biden administration, making it more difficult on college campuses for the accused to receive a fair hearing and their due process rights,” she said.

“Does Joe still stand by his presumption of guilt for the accused—or has he set a new standard for himself in the face of his own sexual assault accusations from a former staffer?”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber