[ThinkProgress] Thanks To The Government Shutdown, College Sexual Assault Investigations Have Been Put On Hold

[ThinkProgress] Thanks To The Government Shutdown, College Sexual Assault Investigations Have Been Put On Hold

“On a practical level, that means that government officials aren’t in contact with the students who filed formal complaints against their universities. If complainants attempt to reach out to the investigator who’s handling their case, they’re told that person isn’t currently working. And Department of Education employees are also unable to conduct any follow-up reviews for the colleges whose cases have recently been settled. Officials have been forced to cancel site visits to campuses, which are intended to make sure they’re adhering to the terms of the settlement agreement.
[…]
It’s not the only way that the current shutdown is having an impact on survivors of domestic violence. Rape crisis centers across the country stopped receiving federal funds on Friday, since the government is no longer able to distribute the funding that’s appropriated under the Violence Against Women Act. And that’s on top of the deep cuts that domestic violence programs already faced under sequestration.”

KNOW YOUR IX!!!

KNOW YOUR IX!!!

We are so excited for the launch of Know Your IX! 

Know Your IX is a campaign that aims to educate all college students in the U.S. about their rights under Title IX. Armed with information, sexual violence survivors will be able to advocate for themselves during their schools’ grievance proceedings and, if Title IX guarantees are not respected, file a complaint against their colleges with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

This campaign was built by a large collective of survivor-activists and allies seeking to share the expertise of their first-hand experience with violence, the law, and activism. On this site you’ll find resources on Title IX and the Clery Act, guidance on engaging in campus activism, hotlines for emergency care, suggestions for supporting a survivor, and personal advice in our “Dealing with…” section.


ED Act Now asks for the Department of Education

ED Act Now asks for the Department of Education

1. Timely Investigations

The ED must resolve investigations within a semester of a Title IX complaint being filed.

The 2011 Title IX Guidance requires schools to provide prompt resolutions for complaints of sexual violence. We ask that the Executive demand ED do the same. This will ensure that survivors who remain on campus have resolutions that facilitate their ongoing education at that institution. At present, the delayed findings are meaningless to graduated survivors and come at too high a cost for enrolled students who often are forced to delay their education, affecting student loans, financial aid, and scholarships.

 

2. Proactive Compliance Measures
(i) Proactive Investigations

The ED must proactively investigate under Title IX when it hears media reports about administrators mishandling sexual violence rather than wait for complaints from survivors.

Many students are still unaware of their rights under Title IX. The Executive should require regional ED offices to proactively investigating campus sexual violence reports when they are in the media rather than waiting for survivors to file complaints—a process that is burdensome, triggering, and frightening to survivors. This will show that the Executive has no tolerance for the institutional mishandling of sexual violence cases and ensure that the ED is aggressively seeking out and addressing such violations.

(ii) Regional Compliance Reviews

The ED must ensure national compliance with Title IX through annual school reviews.

Given the norm of noncompliance within educational institutions, the Executive should require the ED to take proactive measures to ensure schools are aware and in compliance with Title IX nationwide rather than wait for tragedy to strike. Each regional ED office should conduct annual compliance reviews at random and within each reach at several schools to encourage compliance.

(iii) Mandatory Audits

The Department of Justice (DOJ) should work with the ED to conduct retroactive audits of colleges and universities with repeated Title IX complaints to determine patterns of violation.

 

Certain schools have evaded noncompliance findings despite repeated complaints by students of mishandled sexual violence cases. The Executive should authorize the DOJ to partner with ED on these tougher cases. Specifically, the DOJ should retroactively review institutions with multiple complaints in order to determine repeat patterns of violations.

3. Resolution Reforms

(i) Intermediate Sanctions

The ED must review sexual violence complaints under both Title IX and the Clery Act to ensure intermediate sanctions authorized under the Campus SaVE Act are levied when appropriate.

Enforcement of Title IX needs to be meaningful. Colleges are quickly learning that they will never lose federal funding; therefore intermediate sanctions must be levied for violations. The Campus SaVE Act provides a mechanism for intermediate sanctions, having incorporated portions of the Title IX Dear Colleague Letter Guidance into the Clery Act. To facilitate its use, the Executive should require the ED to mandatorily review all sexual violence complaints under both Title IX and the Clery Act and levy sanction, rather than voluntary resolve complaints when appropriate given the federal violations.

(ii) Monitoring of Resolutions

The DOJ should monitor institutional compliance efforts as part of voluntary resolutions.

When voluntary resolutions agreements occur, the Executive should require the ED to include DOJ on-site monitoring to ensure compliance. For monitoring, the DOJ should create and analyze climate surveys, announce public meetings for commentary, and ensure campus survivors and faculty are adequately sampled to provide meaningful monitoring of institutional reform efforts.

(iii) Transparency

The ED must publish filings, findings and resolutions, to adequately alert students to the risk of sexual violence on campus, and advertise the Title IX complaint process.

Transparency is needed on Title IX enforcement. Students need to be made aware of their rights under Title IX and the complaint process. Complainants should be able to track the progress of their Title IX complaint so that it is not lost or neglected. The filing, investigation, and findings of a complaint should be publicly accessible with all identifying information redacted to preserve privacy for the survivors involved. Noncompliance findings and sanctions should also be publicly known to appropriately shame schools that have violated their federal obligations.

4. Further Education & Guidance

(i) LGBTQ Guidance

The ED must issue guidance to schools on handling LGBTQ and same-sex sexual violence that ensures adequate enforcement of Title IX.

School administrators need guidance on applying Title IX for same-sex sexual harassment and violence, especially when it involves LGBTQ students. The Executive should require the ED to provide guidance for these circumstances so it can be a leader in ensuring equal protection for all students regardless of sex, gender or gender identity.

(ii) Cultural Competency Education

The ED must provide training for regional departments and campuses to ensure marginalized student populations are not unfairly burdened when exercising their rights under Title IX.

Survivors in marginalized communities often face additional barriers when bringing Title IX complaints either to their schools or the ED. No survivor should have sex discrimination excused because of cultural perceptions or minimized because of their identity. Additionally, international students on visas face unique risks regarding their status when bringing Title IX complaints. The Executive should require the ED to provide ongoing education so that officials properly address all cases of sexual violence.


Ed Act Now on Monday, July 15th!!!

Colleges and universities across the country are failing live up to their legal responsibilities to combat sexual violence and support survivors. Although the Department of Education (ED) is charged with enforcing relevant laws like Title IX, its reluctance to hold schools accountable has allowed unsafe campuses and institutional abuse to continue unchanged.

At 11:00am on July 15th we will gather at ED (400 Maryland SW, D.C.) to deliver a petition calling on the Department to join us in the fight against campus violence by enforcing federal requirements regarding sexual and gender-based violence on campus.

RSVP here: Ed Act Now on Monday, July 15th!!!


Department of Education: Hold colleges accountable that break the law by refusing to protect students from sexual assault

Department of Education: Hold colleges accountable that break the law by refusing to protect students from sexual assault

Trigger warning: this petition contains information about sexual assault that may be upsetting to survivors.

We are members of a group of hundreds of students and recent graduates fighting sexual violence at colleges and universities, driven by our own experiences of assault, harassment, and abuse on campus. Many of us filed complaints with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil rights because we feel our schools broke federal law by refusing to protect us either before or after we were assaulted. In fact, the Department of Education has only ever publicly found one school to be in noncompliance with the law, even though a recent study suggests nearly two thirds of colleges in America don’t comply.

We started this petition to demand that the Department of Education step up to hold colleges and universities publicly accountable for complying with federal law about protecting survivors of sexual assault like us.

Indeed, one in four women will be raped by the time she graduates college. And, often, survivors are betrayed by the school administrations they turn to after their assault. In this past year alone, hundreds of survivors from dozens of schools have bravely shared their experiences. Almost all have been silenced or ignored by their campus administrations, and most have been forced to drop classes, clubs, sports teams, jobs – or abandon their educations entirely – in order to ensure their basic safety.

These practices aren’t only unethical; they’re illegal. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments – the landmark civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantees students the fundamental right to education free from sexual violence and harassment. Yet, over 40 years later, little has changed: according to the National Institute of Justice, nearly two in three schools don’t follow anti-violence law. 

Some of these schools have been investigated by the Department of Education (ED), the body charged with enforcing Title IX. But ED’s willingness to accept colleges’ promises to change their ways — rather than levy sanctions and publicly declare offending schools as “noncompliant” — isn’t working. In the face of ED’s leniency, schools aren’t changing their ways, and students continue to suffer sexual violence and institutional abuse.

The Department released a remarkable set of guidelines in the 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter,” and this year it has the opportunity to show its commitment to students by following up this strong language with effective action. In the past twelve months, an unprecedented number of survivors have filed Title IX complaints with ED against colleges and universities across the United States, including the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Dartmouth College, Swarthmore College, Occidental College, the University of California – Berkeley, and the University of Southern California. More complaints are expected in the upcoming months.

To create safe, fair campuses across the country, we call on ED to join us in the fight against campus sexual violence by enforcing Title IX law.After we collect signatures, we will deliver this petition during a demonstrationat 11am on July 15th in front of the Department (400 Maryland SW, DC) and would love for you to join us and show how many people care about this national problem.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. More than four decades after Title IX, it is long past time we be able to enjoy our right to safe education.