Senator Shelley Moore Capito Talks Title IX and Betsy DeVos

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Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks in Martinsburg. Photo by Jessica Sharpless.

West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, said in an interview Monday morning that federal regulations governing how universities handle campus sexual assaults should be “protected.”

“I definitely think Title IX needs to be protected and worked at,” Capito said while in Martinsburg to speak to a group on I-81 improvements. Title IX, which was created to protect students against sexual discrimination in schools, was interpreted to include sexual assault in 2011 when the Department of Education issued official guidance on how campuses must deal with sexual assault.

Capito’s response comes in the wake of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos saying during her confirmation hearing that she is not sure if she will uphold Title IX’s policies toward campus sexual assault. DeVos issued a statement in February that the issue should be solved at the state and local level rather than the federal. Critics fear that if Title IX enforcement is given to the states, protections across state lines will vary and students will be at risk.

“She’s probably got a lot of things that she’s talking about,” Capito said of fellow Republican DeVos. “I noticed that she’s been traveling a lot around, talking to a lot of different people, and I think that will help broaden her scope on this.”

Capito also brought up that she “was one of the main cosponsors” of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act with Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri. “It’s a bipartisan bill,” Capito said, that would create “better protocols for sexual assault on campus” by adding support services for victims, transparency requirements, a uniform disciplinary process and penalties for Title IX violations.

The bill was originally introduced in 2014 by McCaskill but did not emerge from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Capito was not sure if it would be reintroduced.

Capito gave the keynote address at the annual I-81 Corridor Coalition conference, which was held in Martinsburg. Other issues addressed during the conference include highway safety, funding and construction.