The rules for how US schools and colleges handle sexual misconduct got a rewrite.
Yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled the final rules for an overhaul of Title IX. That's a 1970s-era law that bans sex discrimination, assault, and harassment in educational programs that get federal funding (think: grade schools, high schools, and colleges). The goal was to boost rights for accused students and clarify the types of cases schools are required to investigate.
The changes narrow the definition of sexual harassment to conduct that is especially "severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive." But they also make clear that relationship violence and stalking are punishable under this law. Then there's the question of what schools do about it.
The rules limit the kinds of complaints schools have to investigate, mainly to incidents on campus and in school programs. And require colleges to hold disciplinary hearings that are more like something you'd see in court, with cross-examinations of both the alleged victim and perpetrator. Schools are barred from taking any disciplinary action against the accused until the process is over.
August, before the start of the next semester. That is, unless the rules are held up in the courts. Or Congress reverses them, something that's not expected to happen under a Republican-majority Senate.
Civil rights groups are calling the rule changes an "important victory" for the rights of the accused, a change from what DeVos described as an Obama-era process that lacked due process. But victims' rights orgs are worried – and warn that forcing victims to face cross examination could discourage them from reporting their assaults.
The education system has been through sweeping changes in recent weeks, affecting tens of millions of students. But yesterday's rule changes could outlast the pandemic, impacting students on schools and college campuses for years to come
Georgia. Earlier this week, a video surfaced that appears to show the killing of an unarmed 25-year-old black man named Ahmaud Arbery. Back in February, Arbery was jogging when he was allegedly chased and shot to death by two white men – a former police officer and his son who claimed they thought he was a burglar. One prosecutor told police that the men had acted within Georgia's self-defense and citizen arrest laws, and the men were never charged or arrested. Now, a prosecutor says the case will be presented in front of a grand jury. It's unclear when that will happen since Georgia courts are closed until mid-June because of the pandemic. But Arbery's family wants arrests now. And their lawyer called the shooting a racially motivated, modern-day "lynching."
President Trump. Yesterday, he backtracked on his plan to phase out the White House coronavirus task force in the coming weeks – and now says it will continue on "indefinitely." But the focus will move toward reopening the country, as well as coordinating the effort to find and produce a vaccine. There could also be personnel changes, though Trump says 'don't worry' – Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are here to stay, scarves and all.
India. This morning, at least eight people were killed and hundreds hospitalized after a gas leak at a chemical plant in southern India. The factory –owned by the South Korean company LG Corp –had reportedly been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak and was preparing to restart. LG Corp warns that the leak can cause vomiting and dizziness and is working to help everyone affected. It's not clear how the leak started, but the company and local authorities are looking into it.
Tech companies. Since last week, Lyft, Airbnb, and Uber have each announced layoffs. The rideshare companies have seen at least a 70% drop in ride requests in cities worst hit by COVID-19. And Airbnb's struggling with reservations as cancellations have become widespread. The announcements come as more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits – a number that could go up when the April jobs report comes out on Friday.
PS: Here's how to adjust your budget if you've been laid off, furloughed, or had your hours cut.
Earth. Yesterday, scientists said they discovered the closest black hole. It's only 1,000 light-years away. But if you have the Millennium Falcon, you may be able to make it.
...Oh and speaking of space, Tom Cruise is pairing up with NASA to Cruise onto the International Space Station for a new film.
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May 3 | Things in India are going from bad to worse.
March 11 | Venezuela is in the midst of a major power outage.
May 13 | Israel and Gaza are under fire.