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Biden White House orders review of campus sexual misconduct rules changed by Trump

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday will order a review of changes the previous administration made to on rules on how colleges should handle sexual assault allegations and formally establish a White House Gender Policy Council, officials said.

A Biden executive order he will sign later on Monday will direct the U.S. Education Department to review all its existing regulations, orders, guidance, and “policies for consistency with the administration’s policy to guarantee education free from sexual violence,” according to a White House fact sheet provided Sunday night.

In 2017, the Trump administration reversed Obama-era guidelines that had spelled out measures schools should follow to try to prevent sexual assaults on campuses. Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, argued the Obama guidelines resulted in too many students being falsely charged and the accused being treated unfairly.

In May 2020, DeVos unveiled final regulations on how colleges should deal with sexual misconduct allegations on campuses. She said the rules would require “schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process.”

Biden’s order directs a review of the 2020 regulation “to determine whether the regulation and agency action are consistent with the policies of the Biden-Harris Administration,” the fact sheet said.

A second executive order will formally establish a White House council gender equality council, officials said.

The council is part of “a government-wide focus on uplifting the rights of women and girls in the United States and around the world,” according to a White House fact sheet.

Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at anti-sexual harassment activist group Time’s Up, is cochairing the council with Julissa Reynoso, a lawyer who previously served as a diplomat and deputy assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration.

As a candidate, Biden pledged to narrow the wage gap between men and women, invest in women-owned businesses and fight against work-place discrimination. His vice president, Kamala Harris, is the first woman to occupy the position.

The council will work with other parts of the administration to address “barriers to women’s participation in the labor force, decreasing wage and wealth gaps, and addressing the caregiving needs of American families and supporting care workers,” the fact sheet said.

As of January, women accounted for slightly more than half of the 10 million jobs lost during the coronavirus crisis, even though they typically make up a little less than half the work force.

More than 2.5 million women left the labor force between February 2020 and January of this year, compared to 1.8 million men.

Biden will direct the council to submit a “government-wide strategy to address gender in policies, programs and budgets” and an annual report on progress, the White House said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Heather Timmons and Stephen Coates)

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