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President Biden’s controversial Department of Education nominee Catherine Lhamon was confirmed by the Senate amid a nationwide battle against critical race theory and an expected rollback of Trump-era Title IX regulations.
The Senate voted to confirm Lhamon as the department’s assistant secretary of civil rights on Wednesday in a 51-50 vote along party lines with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Lhamon’s confirmation had its fair share of controversy over her view of Title IX regulations implemented under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that required colleges to presume innocent students accused of sexual misconduct on campus until proven guilty.
Title IX is the 1972 law barring discrimination based on sex in education and has been the center of heated debate over penalties for students accused of sexual misconduct at universities across the U.S.
Biden’s nominee to lead the civil rights division of the Education Department said in her Senate confirmation hearing that she would uphold the provisions, but defended a tweet of hers where she claimed that the regulations allowed students to “rape and sexually harass students with impunity.”
“[DeVos] presides over taking us back to the bad old days, that predate my birth, when it was permissible to rape and sexually harass students with impunity,” Lhamon claimed about the regulations on Twitter in May of last year. “Today’s students deserve better, including fair protections consistent with law.”
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., was questioning Lhamon about her tweet, which the nominee doubled down on in the hearing.
“I think what I said in the tweet, the regulation permits students to rape and sexually harass with impunity,” Lhamon responded to Cassidy. “I think that the regulation has weakened the intent of Title IX that Congress wrote.”
DeVos has spoken out on the president’s controversial nominee, calling the nominee “the worst of the worst.”
“As far as nominations go, Catherine Lhamon is the worst of the worst,” DeVos said. She said the notion Lhamon could continue to push Obama-era policies as head of the civil rights division, including establishing racial quotas, allowing biological males to use female bathrooms, and rolling back due process rights, is a “horrifying idea.”
DeVos also spoke out against critical race theory as the subject continues to be the center of controversy in schools across the nation.
“It is a twisted and warped view of America and America’s history and America’s aspirations,” she said, “It teaches kids to hate their country, to be suspicious of one another, to either be considered an oppressor or an oppressed, and it doesn’t encourage any individual to develop themselves.”
If anything, it’s “massively divisive” more than anything else, said DeVos.
Lhamon’s nomination also spurred warnings from education advocates.
In a recent report, the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) stated that the Trump-era Title IX regulations “bolstered due process at colleges,” but that those changes have the potential to be undone with Lhamon’s confirmation.
“We were finally seeing student rights moving in the right direction, but Catherine Lhamon’s nomination just shows how threatened the progress we’ve made is,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley in a statement.
“If confirmed, Lhamon’s history and rhetoric indicate that she will put her thumb on the scale of justice — ripping away fundamental rights and encouraging a patently unfair shadow justice system that deprives students of their right to due process,” he continued.
The Title IX regulations enacted in 2020 under the Trump administration were designed to secure the due process rights of students by ensuring that colleges presume a student accused of sexual harassment or assault is innocent until proven guilty. The changes to the law would require colleges to allow live hearings and provide forums for cross examination of witnesses of sexual assault.
The changes under DeVos came as a direct result of criticism of the Obama administration’s guidance from 2011, which many claimed made it easier for falsely accused students to be expelled from their universities over sexual harassment claims without due process.
At the time of announcement, DeVos stated that the revised regulations would ensure even-handed justice at colleges, which “often stacked the deck against the accused.”
Critics of the Trump-era changes claim that live questioning could be traumatic for survivors of sexual harassment and could make it harder for victims to come forward and report incidents.
However, supporters of the revised regulations say the rule allows attorneys to cross examine a case with the victim out of the room, so it would limit any potential trauma.
The Biden administration has signaled that it will roll back Trump’s 2020 regulations on Title IX in the near future.
Fox News’ Kelly Laco and Andrew Murray contributed reporting.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.
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