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Online Prevention Programs Must Be Accessible
Posted by On Wednesday, February 4, 2015

One compliance issue that deserves more attention is the accessibility of educational programs and activities — including sexual violence prevention programs — to students and employees with disabilities, including visual impairments. Not only is accessibility the subject of multiple higher education lawsuits, it is also the subject of federal agencies’ compliance reviews.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights enforces Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers public colleges and universities (except schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools). OCR also enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which covers public and private colleges and universities that receive federal financial assistance.

In its May 26, 2011 “Frequently Asked Questions About the June 29, 2010 Dear Colleague Letter,” the OCR addressed accessibility issues in emerging technology:

6. Does the DCL apply beyond electronic book readers to other forms of emerging technology?

A: Yes. The core principles underlying the DCL — equal opportunity, equal treatment, and the obligation to make modifications to avoid disability-based discrimination — are part of the general nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA. Therefore, all school programs or activities — whether in a “brick and mortar,” online, or other “virtual” context — must be operated in a manner that complies with Federal disability discrimination laws.

Since issuing this guidance, OCR Resolution Agreements have required colleges and universities to meet accessibility standards so persons with qualified disabilities can participate fully in educational programs and activities.

In 2013, OCR reached settlement agreements with South Carolina Technical College System and The Pennsylvania State University. In March of 2014, OCR entered into a Resolution Agreement with the University of Montana to resolve a complaint that the university discriminated against students with disabilities by using inaccessible electronic and information technology (EIT). The UM agreed to:

  • Adopt policies and procedures to demonstrate its commitment to implement EIT accessibility across all disciplines
  • Train faculty and staff on UM’s accessibility policies and procedures
  • Establish grievance procedures for addressing complaints about accessibility barriers
  • Institute procurement procedures to acquire accessible EITs whenever technically feasible
  • Conduct student surveys and accessibility audits to ensure accessibility needs are being met

In December 2014, the OCR entered into agreements to address accessibility issues with Youngstown State University (OCR letter and agreement) and the University of Cincinnati (OCR letter and agreement). In both the Youngstown and UC agreements, OCR defined “accessible” as follows:

“Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. A person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability.

The Youngstown and UC agreements require an EIT Accessibility Policy:

[T]o ensure information provided through the University’s website(s), online learning (or “e-learning”) environment, and course management systems (e.g. Blackboard) (collectively, “electronic and information technologies” or “EIT”), are accessible to students, prospective students, employees, guests, and visitors with disabilities, particularly those with visual, hearing, or manual impairments or who otherwise require the use of assistive technology to access information provided through its EIT . . ..

Under these agreements, once the EIT policies are adopted OCR will conduct regular audits to make sure the universities and third parties continue to meet the agreed-upon standards.

Accessibility for prevention programs is not specifically addressed by the final regulations implementing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, including the Campus Elimination of Sexual Violence Act (Campus SaVE Act). However, while the Department’s comments are primarily focused on content they do address how the required information will be delivered, stating:

[T]he Department does not have the authority to mandate or prohibit the specific content of mode of delivery for these [prevention] programs or to endorse certain methods of delivery (such as computer based programs) as long as the program’s content meets the definition of “programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

Accessibility standards are evolving to keep pace with emerging technologies, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are currently the favored standard.

So, in addition to checking a prevention program’s content, make sure it also meets the “accessible” standard.

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Yearly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, January 2, 2015

In lieu of our usual Weekly Roundup we want to start 2015 with a look back at six of the most important stories we covered in 2014. We list them here in the order in which they were originally published.

White House Task Force Tells Victims “You’re Not Alone”

This year the Obama administration launched its anti-sexual assault campaign in earnest, including a White House task force and the ad campaign “It’s On Us.”

A Checklist for Title IX Employee Training

If you have any doubts about what your Title IX training for faculty and staff should include, take a look at this useful checklist compiled by our legal team.

2 Minutes Will Change How Your Students Think About Consent

Teaching the definition of consent can be as awkward as it is crucial. This video, originally created for our award-winning online training, tackles this potentially tough lesson in an engaging, easy to follow format.

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act

One of the biggest stories about campus sexual assault and higher education law in 2014, the proposed Campus Accountability and Safety Act, is almost certainly going to be an even bigger story in 2015. Get the scoop now on what the proposed legislation could mean for your institution.

California’s New Consent Law: Yes Means Yes vs. No Means No

Even if California law doesn’t apply to you and your institution, this rundown of the Golden State’s new affirmative consent law is an instructive analysis of the difference between “No Means No” and “Yes Means Yes” definitions of consent.

A Rundown of the Campus SaVE Act Final Regulations: Prevention Programs

Finally, our legal team provides an analysis of a topic with which they are particularly familiar: what the Campus SaVE Act’s final regulations require for schools’ prevention programs. Check out the link above to learn what your institution has to do to be in compliance.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, November 21, 2014

Mandy Van Deven reports on the factors that keep schools silent on sexual assault and harassment, a new niche arises for attorneys defending young men accused of sexual assault, and the Association of American Universities plans to conduct its own campus climate survey.

Why Wouldn’t School Administrators Want to Talk About Sexual Assault?

Journalist Mandy Van Deven filed a report with Newsweek, as part of a crowdfunded reporting project to examine how schools respond to sexual assault and harassment against their students. In this report, Van Deven examines some of the factors that discourage schools from discussing sexual assault and harassment. She points to the unfortunate fact that teachers don’t have the tools to have meaningful conversations about sexual harassment. Furthermore, schools that do a better job reporting sexual misconduct may have higher reported rates of assaults and thus appear to have worse problems than other schools with less rigorous reporting and enforcement. She also points to the fact that no school has ever actually lost funding under Title IX. Van Deven’s work on this subject continues and we’ll be reporting on the project in future posts.

Attorneys for the Accused

As the pressure on schools to take substantive action to prevent sexual violence increases, so does the number of accused perpetrators who are arguing that their civil rights were violated in the process of investigations and disciplinary hearings. The result is a rapidly growing legal specialty: Lawyers who represent young men disciplined for sexual misconduct. These lawyers claim that basic due process rights such as the right to cross-examine witnesses and present a defense are being lost in the rush to do something about campus sexual assault. In many cases, they are using laws like Title IX on behalf of accused perpetrators, claiming that their clients are being discriminated against because they are male. Critics have pointed out that turning a conduct hearing into an adversarial proceeding with lawyers representing students accused of sexual misconduct can further confuse the process, getting schools into even more trouble with Title IX. Columbia University has addressed this problem by offering free legal help to both parties, but the university’s special adviser on sexual assault prevention and response says, while “lawyers can help protect the rights of accused students . . . they come at a potential cost” to what is supposed to be an educational process.

The Association of American Universities Climate Survey

The Association of American Universities plans to develop and conduct an anonymous campus climate survey regarding sexual misconduct for those AAU members that elect to join the survey for about $85,000 per school. The survey will be conducted in April of 2015 and aggregated results will be published the following fall. According to the AAU president, Hunter Rawlings, part of the goal behind the project is to preempt a Congressional mandate “that every campus conduct a government-developed survey in the near future, which will likely be a one-size-fits all survey that does not reliably assess the campus culture on this issue.” Although Sen. McCaskill, author of a bill that would require surveys administered by the Department of Education for all institutions of higher education, has praised the survey, critics suggest that a survey whose results will be published in aggregate only is a convenient out for institutions that might otherwise have to provide campus-level data,which would allow students and parents to compare results between schools.

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A Rundown of the Campus SaVE Act Final Regulations: Prevention Programs
Posted by On Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On October 20, 2014, the Department of Education published its final regulations to implement the Clery Act amendments (the Campus SaVE Act) enacted under the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013 (VAWA). It’s been over a year and a half since VAWA was signed by President Obama on March 7, 2013. The Campus SaVE Act regulations will take effect on July 1, 2015. In this post, we’ll focus on what these new regulations tell us about building prevention and awareness programs that are tailored to a particular campus and satisfy the requirements of a compliance review.

Do the regulations require an actual prevention program or just a policy statement?
A basic question about the Campus SaVE Act requirements was definitively answered by the Department’s discussion of the final regulations: simply having a policy describing the institution’s primary prevention and awareness programs does not satisfy the Campus SaVE Act requirements. Each school must have actual prevention programs that implement these policies.

Do a school’s prevention programs need to be informed by research?
Comments on the proposed regulations asked whether a school’s prevention programs must be both informed by research and assessed for effectiveness. The Department refused to require both because it would limit the types of programs institutions can develop. Since there has not been enough research done to show what makes a program effective, institutions may use “promising practices that have been assessed for value, effectiveness, or outcome but not subjected to scientific review.”

Is there specific content or a mode of delivery required?
In its discussion on the final regulations, the Department also noted that it would not mandate the specific content or mode of delivery. Specifically, computer-based programs and third-party vendors may be used as long as a program’s content meets the definitions under these regulations of “programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

Is it mandatory that students and employees complete prevention programs?
The same students and employees who must receive a copy of the institution’s annual security report must be offered prevention training. While the federal law does not require all students and employees to take or attend prevention training, the Department encourages schools to make the training mandatory “to increase its effectiveness.”

The Department also clarified that employees include union members and an “enrolled” student is anyone who has (1) completed registration requirements, except the payment of tuition and fees, or (2) been admitted into an online or correspondence education program and submitted at least one lesson without the help of a school representative (34 CFR § 668.2). The Department points out that “every enrolled student should be offered prevention training because anyone can be a victim of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, not just students regularly on campus.”

What information is required in a school’s prevention program?
Generally, an institution’s prevention and awareness programs must provide information to help students and employees understand their rights under the school’s procedures and programs to address incidents of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. In its discussion of the regulations’ costs and benefits, the Department says, “A benefit of these regulations is that they will strengthen the rights of campus victims . . ..”

Additionally, the prevention piece of these programs:

  • should focus on changing the social norms and stereotypes that create conditions in which sexual violence occurs
  • must be tailored to the individual communities that each school serves to ensure that they are culturally relevant and inclusive of, and responsive to, all parts of a school’s community
  • include “ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns,” which, as defined in §668.46(j)(2)(iii), requires that programs be sustained over time

For a list of the specific content required, we have put together a checklist of the Campus SaVE Act and Title IX training requirements for employees and students.

In future blog posts, we’ll explain other important provisions in the final regulations, including the regulatory requirements for disciplinary proceedings, and how to balance protecting a victim’s confidentiality and encouraging members of the campus community to report crimes.

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Interview with USF Vice Provost Peter Novak [Part 1 of 3]
Posted by On Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CampusClarity recently interviewed Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life at the University of San Francisco, about Student Life’s harm-prevention programming this Fall. The interview sheds light on how one school is approaching these important issues. We’ll be publishing the interview in three installments this week.

In this excerpt from that interview, Vice Provost Novak discusses how to use data collected by “Think About It” along with elements and themes from the course as a basis for expanded programming on sexual violence and substance abuse on campus.

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A New School Year — Let’s Talk About It
Posted by On Thursday, August 21, 2014

Today we’re publishing a guest post from Jennifer Waryas, the University of San Francisco’s Health Marketing Coordinator. Jennifer brings together different groups and individuals to coordinate USF’s harm-reduction efforts.

Today she is writing about some of the larger strategies she follows to create successful campus programming around sexual violence and substance abuse. She’ll be writing a post about once a month to keep us updated on her efforts, setbacks, and triumphs as the school year rolls on. You can also follow her at the USF Talk About It blog.

A New School Year – Let’s Talk About It

by Jennifer Waryas

And so the 2014-15 academic year begins . . .

In order for sexual violence prevention programs to be successful and win the attention of students, we need to deliver an effective, cohesive, consistent, and positive set of messages around the topics of alcohol, drugs, and sexual misconduct that empower all students to make decisions that ultimately result in a safe, fun, and successful college life experience. At the start of this new school year on the University of San Francisco campus, two big ideas govern our strategy: continuing conversations and coordinated messaging.

(more…)

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Free Poster on the Campus SaVE Act
Posted by On Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Campus SaVE Act Any effort to eliminate campus sexual violence must involve creating and fostering a campus environment where survivors feel comfortable and confident reporting an incident. Unfortunately, according to the Campus Sexual Assault Study, only 5% of campus sexual assaults were reported to the police or campus security. Many students said that they weren’t sure how to report, didn’t want anyone to find out, or were worried that their complaint wouldn’t be taken seriously.

To create a supportive environment, the first step is to educate students, staff, and faculty about these issues and their respective roles and responsibilities — a fact recognized by recent proposed legislation andthe Campus SaVE Act enacted in 2013. Both require schools to educate students and employees on recognizing, reporting, and preventing sexual violence.

This poster helps promote awareness about the Campus SaVE Act and outlines what faculty, staff, and students need to know to fulfill their role in helping to create a safe campus community.

Download the poster here.

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DCL: Good Faith Effort to Comply Required
Posted by On Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the ED issued a Dear Colleague Letter because they “have received numerous inquiries from institutions asking us to clarify their responsibilities under the Clery Act, as amended by VAWA.” This guidance repeats ED statements from May 2013 with a bit more clarity: “until final regulations are published and effective, institutions must make a good-faith effort to comply with the statutory provisions as written.”

The ED’s guidance says good faith compliance with amendments to the Clery Act, which include the Campus SaVE Act, requires institutions to expand their policies to describe the procedures and programs that satisfy those new requirements. For example, the Campus SaVE Act requires each school to have a policy that describes the procedures that will be followed when a student reports a sexual assault incident and what standard of evidence will be used to decide an accused student’s responsibility for the assault.

Therefore, the ED will be looking for information in the policy statement submitted with a school’s October 2014 Annual Security Report that satisfies all of the requirements in the Campus SaVE Act, including a description of its prevention program.

(more…)

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Golden State Auditor Issues Report
Posted by On Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Golden State Auditor Issues Report

Free Posters Supporting Male Survivors
Posted by On Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Silence Helps No ONeMen are also victims of sexual assault. The Campus Sexual Assault Study (cited in the White House Task Force’s “Not Alone” report) found that 6.1% of men had been victims of completed or attempted sexual assault. And, according to the CDC, 28.5% of men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (compared to 35.6% of women).

As with female survivors, male survivors may blame themselves for the assault or deny that what happened was a crime. Men may also feel reluctant to report, fearing that they will be perceived as weak for not fighting off the attacker or that showing pain and hurt is not “masculine.”

Raising awareness about male survivors can help create a more supportive environment, encouraging them to seek help and report the crime. These posters help bring this important issue to light and can be a valuable piece of any school’s prevention program.

Download the posters here:

  1. Silence Helps No One
  2. Abuse is Blind to Gender
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