Education Dept. Defends Its Approach to Title IX in Face of Senate Pressure

Peter Schmidt

The Education Department is standing by its controversial guidance to colleges on sexual harassment and sexual assault in response to questions raised by a prominent Senate critic.

Catherine E. Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, defended her agency’s actions in a letter on Wednesday to Sen. James Lankford, who, as head of the Senate’s subcommittee on regulatory affairs and federal management, had accused the department of overreach in pressuring colleges to fight sexual discrimination to comply with the gender-equity law known as Title IX.

Ms. Lhamon’s response to Senator Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, appears to set the stage for a clash between the Education Department and the Senate over the department’s powers, Darrell (D.J.) Jordan, a spokesman for the senator, said on Thursday. The letter “raises further concerns for Senator Lankford, and he is now contemplating several measures to continue this oversight,” Mr. Jordan wrote in an email. He added, however, that “we’re not ready to confirm our next steps just yet.”