Notably, the letter announced a public hearing on the matter, soliciting feedback from educators, students, and other stakeholders on how schools should handle sexual misconduct.
Biden vowed on the campaign trail to strike down the polarizing Trump-era policy on campus sexual misconduct put into place by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which went into effect in August under Title IX regulations.
DeVos saw the rules as one of her most significant achievements, saying they balanced the scales in college discipline systems that had become stacked against the accused. Her rules gave accused students the right to cross-examine their accusers through representatives at live hearings, among other protections for the accused.
In May of 2020, as a candidate, Biden said “college campuses will be less safe for our nation’s young people” under the rules, and vowed for a “quick end”
As president, Biden called for a review of sexual discrimination policies last month, specifically requesting an evaluation and possible overhaul of the controversial rules.
“Today’s action is the first step in making sure that the Title IX regulations are effective and are fostering safe learning environments for our students while implementing fair processes,” Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona said in a statement released Tuesday.
Per the letter, the Education Department will hold a hearing to allow people to share insights on “the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
DeVos’ rules also narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, limited colleges’ authority to investigate claims arising beyond campus and reduced schools’ legal liability as they address claims of misconduct.
Advocates for the accused applauded the policy while critics said it would deter victims from reporting misconduct. College leaders complained that the rules were overly complex and burdensome.
In the letter, the Education Department said it will ensure that school grievance processes “provide for the fair, prompt, and equitable” resolution of claims.
It is not immediately clear which parts of the rules will be revised, and change is unlikely to come quickly — it took DeVos three years to finalize her rules through the same process.
In the meantime, the agency said it plans to issue a document clarifying its interpretation of the 2020 rules. It will address colleges’ obligations, “including the areas in which schools have discretion” in responding to claims, it said.
Survivor advocacy groups have urged Biden to take quick action to rewrite the rules. Some want the administration to issue interim guidance that loosens DeVos’ rules and adds protections for survivors. Others have said Biden should rescind the 2020 rules entirely.
DeVos’ rules replaced Obama-era guidance that instructed schools how to handle claims of sexual misconduct. By using the federal rulemaking process, DeVos gave her rules the weight of law and made them more difficult to reverse.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.