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On-campus sex assault investigation guidelines scrapped

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 24: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies during a hearing before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee May 24, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The subcommittee held a hearing on "Department of Education Budget." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Trump administration on Friday scrapped Obama-era guidance on investigating campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim instructions allowing universities to decide which standard of evidence to use when handling complaints.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said the Obama rules were unfairly skewed against the students accused of assault, because they “ignored notice and comment requirements, created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness.”

“This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly,” DeVos said in a statement.

“Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes,” she said.

DeVos’ temporary guidance allows colleges the freedom to decide which standards of evidence they want to use when investigating complaints of sexual assault. Under Obama’s instructions from 2011 and 2014, colleges were told to use “the preponderance of the evidence” standards, while DeVos lets colleges choose between that standard and “the clear and convincing evidence standard,” which is harder to meet.

The temporary guidance will be in place while the Education Department gathers comments and comes up with new rules.