Illinois Democrats call on Trump administration to stop sexual harassment rule changes


John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS

The Illinois State Capitol on March 9, 2017, in Springfield, Ill. Illinois Democrats condemned the Trump administration’s plan to weaken sexual assault protections on college campuses.

Clare Proctor, Assistant City Editor

Illinois Democrats are speaking out against the Trump administration’s proposed changes to Title IX regulations that would bolster the rights of those accused of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses and in public schools.

State House Speaker Mike Madigan is working alongside members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus to submit public testimony to the U.S. Education Department before the agency finalizes the proposed rule changes, he announced in a statement on Wednesday. They are also working with the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit organization advocating for the protection of women’s rights.

“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,” Madigan said in the statement. “We will not sit back and allow this to happen.”

Among the most controversial changes is the move to decrease the number of school employees required to take action when receiving reports of sexual harassment — teachers and counselors would no longer be mandated to report incidents unless they would be involved in investigating and discipline. Schools would also not have jurisdiction over incidents that occur outside of school, off-campus and online. Finally, it would allow schools to set their own standards of proof victims would have to provide, though Illinois law requires schools use the lower of two possible evidentiary standards.

The period of public comment to the Education Department was scheduled to end Jan. 28, though the deadline has been extended to Jan. 29 because of issues with the agency’s website. Advocacy groups have written letters asking for an extension because of confusion stemming from the government shutdown.

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