Sexual harassment guidance from DeVos likely won’t affect BC

Megan Fenwick, Social Media Editor

Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, withdrew an Obama-era Dear Colleague letter on Sept. 22 which outlined guidance for how college campuses should investigate accusations of sexual harassment and assault. The Department of Education also released a Q&A to give colleges and universities new guidance on how to handle such reports.
However, Christopher Hines, General Counsel for the Kern Community College District, says that this change will likely not affect Bakersfield College’s investigative process. “The withdrawal of the Dear Colleague Letter should not have an immediate impact on California Community Colleges for the most part,” said Hines. “The procedure for investigating sexual harassment, including sexual assault, for California Community Colleges is found in Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations.” According to Hines, the only aspect of the new guidance that he anticipates potentially affecting BC is under question six, which dictates that details such as, “the identities of the parties involved, the specific section of the code of conduct allegedly violated, the precise conduct allegedly constituting the potential violation, and the date and location of the alleged incident” be provided to the accused party as well as the complainant.
“The Title 5 regulations do not require that the [districts] provide this level of notice to respondents. Some investigators fear that this requirement will interfere with their ability to conduct an effective investigation and that it could lead to retaliation against, or intimidation of, witnesses. It should also be noted that if federal regulations are passed which are consistent with the new OCR guidance then they could have the effect of preempting the Title 5 regulations,” said Hines.
As it currently stands, the guidance released by the Department of Education is not law and therefore KCCD will continue to adhere to state law when handling accusations of assault and harassment.