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Federal Rules Grant More Protection to Students Accused of Sexual Assault

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  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Announced Changes to Title IX that effectively give more power to those accused of sexual misconduct. 
  • Schools can now choose between two evidentiary standards when handling misconduct: the preponderance of evidence or the clear and convincing evidence standard, the latter of which makes it harder for students to be convicted of wrongdoing.
  • Schools are also not required to investigate off-campus incidents if it takes place at a location or event that is not affiliated with the school.
  • The revisions also mandate schools to allow students to go through a live hearing where both parties undergo a cross-examination led by the other student’s lawyer or representative.
  • DeVos believes that these changes make due process fairer, however many fear that this will harm survivors and potentially stop them from reporting.

General Changes to Title IX

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced new changes to Title IX regulations that give more protections to those accused of sexual misconduct. 

In a hefty 2,033 page document, DeVos unveiled a sweeping list of final regulations directing schools and colleges on how to handle sexual misconduct on their campuses. Many of these new regulations rescind rules made during the Obama administration.

Among the changes include a tighter definition of sexual harassment, which will now be considered conduct that is ‘“so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies its victims equal access to education.” The previous definition included broader forms of misconduct that only had to interfere with or limit access to education, not deny it. The new term made additions to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. which were not listed in the old one.

The new regulations also limit what kind of off-campus incidents schools are obligated to look into. If an assault takes place off-campus, a school is now only obligated to look into it if it took place at a school sanctioned event, or if it happened in an “off-campus building owned or controlled by” the school or a student organization. Things like school field trips and conferences, and events at fraternity and sorority houses are under the school’s domain. If an incident takes place at a student’s private off-campus apartment, however, the school is not required to investigate. 

Changes to Reporting and Investigation Standards

Some of the most controversial revisions change the way reported incidents will be investigated by schools. Schools can now choose which evidentiary standard to use when handling cases: the preponderance of evidence or the clear and convincing evidence standard. Currently, the preponderance of evidence standard is commonly used on campuses. The latter option makes it much harder for the accused to be found guilty of wrongdoing. 

The changes also mandate that schools allow live hearings where the accused and accuser undergo a cross-examination. The questioning will be led by the other student’s lawyer or representative so that the two do not have to meet face-to-face. Still, many fear that this process would be traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault.

Schools also are only required to investigate cases if they are reported via a formal complaint to a campus official with the authority to handle it. If the incident is just shared with an R.A. or another campus figure, an investigation is not mandatory. 

“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” DeVos said in a statement. “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.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, Assistant Secretary of Education in the Office for Civil Rights also made remarks in support of the Department’s changes to Title IX. 

“The new Title IX regulation is a game-changer,” Marcus wrote. “It establishes that schools and colleges must take sexual harassment seriously, while also ensuring a fair process for everyone involved.”

“There is no reason why educators cannot protect all of their students – and under this regulation there will be no excuses for failing to do so,” he added. 

Responses and Backlash

The changes were met with an expected amount of criticism. When DeVos first announced her plans in 2018, the Department of Education received 120,000 comments on the matter, which is the most the department has ever received for a proposal. 

Several organizations fear that these rules will hurt survivors and ultimately stop them from reporting sexual misconduct. Know Your IX said that the rules are “dangerous and could push survivors out of school entirely.”

Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center also released a statement with a similar sentiment. 

 “If this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault,” Goss Graves wrote. “We refuse to go back to the days when rape and harassment in schools were ignored and swept under the rug.”

The National Women’s Law Center says they will be taking DeVos and her department to court over the issue. 

Another contentious aspect of DeVos’ announcement is its timing. Schools around the country are already dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Attorneys General from over a dozen states signed a letter back in March asking DeVos to hold off on announcing these plans, as schools at every level have a full plate right now. 

“This unprecedented pandemic—and the necessary steps our country is taking to mitigate and minimize its harms—has placed a significant strain on our schools and our students,” the letter said. “With school resources already stretched thin, now is not the time to require school administrators, faculty, and staff to review new, complex Title IX regulations.”

The rules have yet to take effect. They are currently scheduled to be implemented on August 14, just before the beginning of the traditional school year, a timeline that is likely to be further impacted by the coronavirus. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (NPR) (The Guardian)

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George Floyd’s Family Calls for First-Degree Murder Charge and Arrests of Other Officers

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  • The former officer who was seen on video pressing his knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck has been charged with Third-degree murder and manslaughter.
  • Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said he expects the three other fired officers who were at the scene to be charged, but felt Chauvin’s case was important to handle first. 
  • Floyd’s family issued a statement calling for a First-degree murder charge instead, as well as the arrest of the other officers.
  • New footage of the incident also circulated online, showing how close those other officers were to Floyd during the arrest.

Chauvin Arrested and Charged 

After days of violent protests and widespread demands for justice, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged for the death of George Floyd.  

Chauvin was fired Tuesday, along with three other officers involved in the detainment of Floyd, with Chauvin specifically identified as the man who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. 

Chauvin and the other officers detained Floyd in handcuffs Monday after he allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a convenience store. But outrage grew after video of the arrest was released, which showed 46-year-old Floyd, who was unarmed, repeatedly stating that he couldn’t breathe as the officer held his position. Floyd eventually lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Chauvin was taken into custody Friday morning, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. A short time after that news broke, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin was charged with Third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

“We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job to protect us. They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably,” he said.

Freeman also said he anticipated that charges would come against the other three officers, however, he said, “We felt it was appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator. This case has moved with extraordinary speed.”

Freeman said that the criminal complaint would be completed and available later in the day. As of now, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the FBI are both investigating Floyd’s death. 

If convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin would face up to 25 years in prison on the first charge and up to 10 years on the second.

Third-degree murder means an offender did not intend to kill, but that someone died “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

For this reason, many are unsatisfied with the level of the charge. Others are calling for all officers involved to face repercussions and are frustrated by all of the pleading and widespread calls for justice that it took for charges to come in the first place. 

Floyd Family’s Response 

The family of George Floyd seems to share a similar opinion. They responded to news of the charges in a statement shared by their attorney, Benjamin Crump.

In it, they said the arrest was a “welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.” However, they added that they expected and want a First-degree murder charge.

“We call on authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer,” the statement continued.

The family also noted that the other officers should also face consequences as well. “For four officers to inflict this kind of unnecessary, lethal force – or watch it happen – despite outcry from witnesses who were recording the violence – demonstrates a breakdown in training and policy by the City.”

“We fully expect to see the other officer who did nothing to protect the life of George Floyd to be arrested and charged soon.” 

New Video Angle

Also on Friday, details from the medical examiner’s report were released.

“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” said the complaint from the Hennepin County Attorney. “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” it added.

New video also appeared on social media that appears to better show just how close those other officers were during the arrest, according to CNN and NBN News. In it, two of the officers appear to be kneeling, though it’s unclear if they are placing their knees on Floyd’s body or on the ground.

Image: Minneapolis police user generated video
Screenshot from footage obtained by NBC News showing position of other officers.

The footage was filmed from the opposite side of where the more widely viewed footage featuring Chauvin was captured. It has further pushed the argument that the officers were complicit in his death and should be charged accordingly. 

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times)

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Twitter Places Warning on Trump and White House Tweets for “Glorifying Violence”

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Photo by Doug Mills-Pool

  • President Trump tweeted about protestors in Minneapolis Thursday night, warning that he will call for more control of the demonstrations and adding, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 
  • That phrase was used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley when describing his plans to crack down on protests in black neighborhoods, and it was considered to have contributed to the city’s race riots in the late 1960s. 
  • Twitter placed a warning on the post containing the phrase for “glorifying violence,” however, the tweet is still visible because the platform says it may be of public interest.
  • Users cannot comment, retweet, or like the post, but retweets with comments are still permitted.

What Did Trump Tweet?

Twitter placed a warning label over a tweet from President Donald Trump after determining that it violated its rules about “glorifying violence.” Many view the move as the latest escalation of tension between Trump and the social media platform. 

The tweet flagged was the second in a two-part thread about the ongoing protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was pinned down by a white police officer who pressed his knee over Floyd’s neck for several minutes. 

In the first tweet, the president says he “can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis.” That comment was seemingly in reference to reports of looting, fires, and violence happening during demonstrations. Trump then slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, uring him to control the situation otherwise he will send in the National Gaurd. 

However, his most controversial comments came in the second post, where he said: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Of course, many were frustrated with the president’s characterization of protestors as “thugs,” but Twitter’s issue with the post centered around the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

History Behind the Phrase 

That phrase was used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley to describe his department’s plans to crack down on protests in black neighborhoods. 

At the time, he said, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” adding “They haven’t seen anything yet.” He also characterized black protestors as “young hoodlums who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.”

When giving those statements, Headley also claimed that his department hadn’t faced any series problems with “civil uprising and looting” because he let word filter down “that when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 

That comment was met with a ton of outrage and according to The Washington Post, the phrase was considered to have contributed to the city’s race riots in the late 1960s. 

Twitter’s Warning 

In response to Trump’s use of the phrase, Twitter hit the post with a warning which notifies users that the tweet violates its rules against “glorifying violence.”

Twitter did not remove the tweet, as it typically forces users to do under the policy. That’s because, in the past, the company said there is a higher standard when it comes to taking action against messages from world leaders.

Instead, Twitter added in its warning that it “may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” However, users are unable to like, reply, or retweet the post. Retweets with comments are still possible. 

In a statement about their decision, Twitter reiterated that notice saying: “We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”

White House Shared Trump’s Tweet

Despite Twitter’s actions, the official White House Twitter account quoted Trump’s original tweet with the same text Friday morning.

That tweet was met with the same warning label as Trump’s initial

The White House later shared another post defending the president, arguing that he did not glorify but instead condemned violence. It also tagged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and said his site’s “biased, bad-faith ‘fact-checkers’ have made it clear: Twitter is a publisher, not a platform.”

Escalating Tensions Between Trump and Twitter

Twitter’s decision to mark the tweets came after the platform took similar action earlier this week, placing a fact check warning over one of the president’s posts for the first time ever. 

In that post, Trump falsely claimed that increased access to mail-in voting will lead to extensive voter fraud, despite the fact that experts say voter fraud in the U.S. is incredibly rare. 

Trump criticized the warning Tuesday, accusing the company of stifling free speech and by Wednesday said he planned to “strongly regulate” or “close down” social media platforms. 

Then on Thursday, Trump signed an executive order that seeks to limit the legal protections under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally protects social media companies from liability for the content posted on their platforms. 

After catching wind of Twitter’s latest warning message, Trump threw out more criticism of the platform for allegedly targetting conservatives.

He closed that post with another mention about changing Section 230 and later quoted comments from others speaking in his defense.

Trump later responded to backlash over his looting and shooting statement, saying he doesn’t “want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night meant.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (NBC News)

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CNN Crew Released From Police Custody After Being Arrested While Reporting Live in Minneapolis

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  • A CNN crew that was arrested while covering George Floyd protests in Minneapolis has been released from Minnesota State Patrol’s custody.
  • Reporter Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos, and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were detained live on air after asking officers where they should move their setup. CNN says officers arrested them for not moving when told to.
  • Minnesota State Patrol tweeted that it released the three upon confirming that they were members of the media in a statement that has received a lot of public criticism.
  • CNN says the crew identified themselves as journalists before they were arrested. A CNN reporter also noted that Jimenez, who is black and Latino, was arrested while another white CNN reporter in Minneapolis had little to no issues with police.

CNN Crew Arrested

CNN reporter Omar Jimenez is back on the field after Minnesota State Patrol officers arrested him and his crew while covering protests over the death of George Floyd.

Jimenez and two other crew members were arrested early Friday morning. The incident happened live on air and quickly spread across social media.

Officers were moving to clear an area of downtown Minneapolis when Jimenez asked them where he and his crew should relocate. 

“We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here,” he told the officers, according to footage of the arrest. “Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way.”

Jimenez identified himself as a reporter and told the officers he was reporting live. As he was asking the officers where the crew should relocate, he was put in handcuffs. 

“Do you mind telling me why I’m under arrest, sir?” Jimenez asked before he was walked out of the scene. Moments later, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were arrested as well and taken into police custody.

At one point, it appears that an officer walks away with the camera angled towards the ground. That individual then places it on the group, seemingly unaware that it was still rolling.

CNN Crew Released

The crew was covering the third night of protests over the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer pressed his knee to his neck for at least eight minutes.

The protests have become increasingly violent as calls for charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death continue. Some buildings and shops have been vandalized or looted. A police precinct was also set ablaze. 

The three CNN staffers were released after a few hours. Jimenez posted a photo of him back in front of the camera in Minneapolis. 

“We’re doing okay, now. There were a few uneasy moments there,” Jimenez told CNN.

According to CNN, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz apologized for the incident to the network’s Worldwide President Jeff Zucker Friday morning. 

Walz said he “deeply apologizes” for what happened and is working to have the team released from custody immediately.

Walz described the arrests as “unacceptable,” said the crew clearly has the right to be there. He added that he wants the media to be in Minnesota to cover the protests.

Anger at Minnesota State Patrol 

According to CNN, Jimenez, Kirkos and Mendez were arrested because they were asked to move and did not.

Minnesota State Patrol sent out a tweet on Friday morning explaining that “in the course of clearing the streets and restoring order” they arrested four people, three of whom worked for CNN. They claimed that they released the trio upon learning they were members of the media. 

However, CNN called this statement “inaccurate” because officers were made aware that the three were members of the press before they were arrested.

“Our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists,” a tweet from CNN Communications claimed. 

The Minnesota State Patrol’s claim that they released the crew once they were confirmed to be reporters was met with backlash online. CNN anchor Jake Tapper responded to the tweet saying “they were live on air the entire time.”

“That’s not what happened. This is a lie,” Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava Duvernay tweeted. “We all saw it. This spin is erroneous and disingenuous.”

Others noted that Jimenez, who is black and Latino, was arrested while other white CNN reporters had little to no issues with police. 

“My other colleague @joshscampbell is also on the scene in Minneapolis,” said CNN correspondent Abby Phillip. Phillip says that when Campbell told officers he was with CNN, they responded with. “Ok, you’re good.”

“It’s just impossible not to note the difference,” said CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota. “Since the police didn’t give us much of an explanation for what they were doing against the backdrop of these fires burning and George Floyd’s death, it’s impossible not to note the difference here.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Axios) (New York Times)

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