Senator Lankford Applauds Secretary Devos For Rescinding Overreaching 2011 Guidance Directive for Colleges

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for rescinding a 2011 ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ on Title IX that regulated colleges and universities without the proper Congressional authority. In addition to rescinding the guidance letter, Secretary DeVos today committed to put in place interim documents to assist schools in enforcing Title IX responsibly, and the Department will begin the normal regular order regulatory process.

“The Obama administration’s Department of Education inappropriately used regulatory guidance documents to bully schools and establish significant policy changes for colleges and universities without going through the legal rule-making process. For many academics and legal experts, the April 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter was an example of executive overreach that happened frequently under the previous administration. I applaud Secretary DeVos for addressing the problems associated with the 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter. The Department of Education is taking a positive first step in soliciting comments from stakeholders to get a better understanding of ways to better address the problem. However, this is an issue where Congress must give the Department of Education clear statutory authority to properly regulate. I condemn all types of sexual violence and harassment, in the strongest possible terms, but I believe that the ‘Dear Colleague’ letters of the previous administration circumvented Congressional authority and the regulatory process, and violated due process for many students.” 

Oversight of this has been an important issue for Lankford as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. In September 2015, Lankford led a hearing on whether federal agencies, including the Department of Education, used regulatory guidance appropriately. Testimony from the hearing confirmed that several federal agencies in the Obama administration issued complex guidance documents that create new mandates and obligations without the normal transparent rule-making process, which is clearly inconsistent with the law. In January 2016, Lankford wrote to former Education Secretary John King about this issue and requested justification for the inappropriate use of guidance documents.