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FERPA Compliance and Sexual Assault
Posted by On Thursday, June 2, 2016

The administrative burden placed on colleges and universities across the nation by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) “must not be understated,” and FERPA has been described this way: “the law was enacted hastily, poorly written, and, from its adoption, has begged review.” Salzwedel, M. & Ericson, J. “Cleaning Up Buckley.” Wisconsin Law Review, 2003: 1053, 1065. The stakes are also high: federal funds may be withdrawn from a school that has a “policy or practice” of releasing a student’s education records.

A recent case emphasizes the complexity of applying FERPA regulations and the importance of FERPA training. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times Magazine, Jon Krakauer, author of Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, described his lawsuit against Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education to force the release of education records from a disciplinary proceeding involving sexual assault allegations against a University of Montana football player.

But the issues involved are broader than Krakauer’s research for a new book. The US Department of Education filed an amicus brief in the Krakauer case to clarify FERPA principles at issue in the case, and journalists and news media organizations filed an amicus brief to defend freedom of the press.  Krakauer’s lawsuit challenges the school’s interpretation of FERPA — the University claims FERPA prohibits disclosing the football player’s private education records. Krakauer’s case was heard by the Montana Supreme Court on April 27th and the court’s decision will provide a rare high court interpretation of the labyrinth of FERPA regulations which school administrators, faculty, and staff must wade through.

The Department of Education’s amicus brief also argued that is has a “strong interest” in UM’s compliance with Title IX, noting UM’s 2013 resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights. In its 2014 Q&A on Title IX as well as the 2001 Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance, the Department pointed out the relationship between FERPA and Title IX regarding information about the outcome of a sexual harassment complaint and the due process rights of accused individuals.

Together with Title IX training, educating employees about basic FERPA principles allows them to recognize FERPA issues when handling education records, protecting student privacy rights, and helping schools comply with both their FERPA and Title IX obligations in a wide range of school activities.

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OCR’s UVA Title IX Findings and Resolution
Posted by On Wednesday, May 11, 2016

As schools plan for the next academic year, it’s an opportunity to look back at how Title IX policies, procedures, and prevention programs can be improved for effectiveness and Title IX compliance. To help guide this effort, it’s instructive to look at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ resolution agreement with the University of Virginia, which is a comprehensive real case study of Title IX compliance. While the OCR found that UVA’s sexual assault and sexual misconduct policies violated Title IX, UVA’s revised policies and procedures for investigating and resolving reports of sexual harassment and violence have the OCR’s stamp of approval.

From the OCR’s UVA investigation and guidance documents, we’ve compiled the following list of essential steps to achieving Title IX compliance and increasing campus safety.

Title IX Coordinator

In April 2015, the OCR issued a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools that receive federal financial assistance to designate at least one employee who has the time, training, and authority to address complaints, as well as coordinate and oversee the school’s efforts to comply with Title IX and related laws. The DCL states that this Title IX coordinator should report directly to “senior leadership,” such as the college or university president, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Schools should not designate persons with other job duties that may interfere with their ability to fair and impartial. Another takeaway from the DCL is that interfering with a Title IX coordinator’s efforts to do their job violates Title IX’s anti-retaliation provision.

A Letter to Title IX Coordinators was also issued with a Resource Guide explaining their responsibilities and authority. These documents emphasize the importance of each school having a dedicated person who has the necessary training to coordinate responses to all reports and complaints raising Title IX issues.

Title IX Policies

The Resource Guide emphasizes that Title IX coordinators play an important role to ensure a nondiscriminatory environment. Specifically, the OCR recommends that Title IX coordinators should be involved in drafting and revising a school’s Title IX policies and grievance procedures to make sure they:

  • Explain prohibited behavior and conduct proceedings in plain English
  • Define prohibited behavior the same across all policies
  • Encourage reporting

Additionally, policies and procedures should be made available in places where they are easily found, applied uniformly in all cases involving sexual/interpersonal harassment or violence against students, and reviewed at least annually, and sooner if laws change.

The White House Task Force’s Resource Guide and notalone.gov provide checklists and model definitions of prohibited conduct.  In addition, the Association for Student Conduct Administration offers these recommendations:

  • Define consent and incapacitation (intoxicated vs. incapacitated)
  • State that students or the institution may initiate a complaint
  • Do not place time limits on filing a complaint
  • Encourage reporting by including an amnesty policy for conduct violations involving alcohol or drugs at or near the time of the incident

Grievance Proceedings

The OCR’s Q&A states that provisions for “adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation of complaints, including the opportunity for both the complainant and alleged perpetrator to present witnesses and evidence,” should be included in a school’s grievance procedures.  And Title IX requires schools to “adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for the prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee sex discrimination complaints.” (OCR on Title IX and Sexual Violence, C-1)

A school’s resources and support, not Title IX, determine the most appropriate adjudication model to determine the facts of a case. The most common models are:

  • Single investigator
  • Administrative or panel hearing
  • Hybrid of hearing and single investigator models

Appearance of Conflict of Interest

In the OCR’s UVA Letter of Finding, it found an “appearance of a conflict of interest” based on the multiple roles played by a key individual in the panel hearing process: “the same individual went from being tasked under the [Sexual Misconduct Policy] to ‘identify forms of support or immediate interventions’ for the complainant to being a neutral decision-maker, and then to possibly defending a decision of the [Sexual Misconduct Board] Panel on appeal.” UVA LOF, p. 15)

Since most of these cases involve “he said-she said” situations with alcohol or drug impairment, it is critical that decisions are made by  persons who are impartial and trained in the complexities of sexual assault, where the effects of trauma can affect victims’ reactions and ability to recall details. The Association for Student Conduct Administration has put together a list of training topics for adjudicators and hearing board members. (See ASCA’s Student Conduct Administration & Title IX: Gold Standard Practices for Resolution of Allegations of Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses, Appendix A.)

It is interesting to note that the Commonwealth of Virginia is considering a system of resolving sexual assault cases outside of universities made up of impartial trained investigators, which was first proposed by John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor at George Washington University.

While OCR guidance and court orders don’t provide specific answers, they provide guidelines that allow flexibility to address misconduct in a way that reflects your student population and administrative resources, as long as the response is prompt and impartial.

Prompt and equitable

When evaluating policies and procedures, the OCR looks for these critical elements to meet the “prompt and equitable” standard for Title IX compliance:

  • Notice to students and employees of the procedures, including where complaints may be filed;
  • Application of the procedures to complaints alleging discrimination and harassment carried out by employees, other students, or third parties;
  • Provision for adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation of complaints, including the opportunity for both the complainant and respondent to present witnesses and other evidence;
  • Designated and reasonably prompt timeframes for the major stages of the complaint process;
  • Written notice to both parties of the outcome of the complaint and any appeal; and
  • Assurance that the recipient will take steps to prevent recurrence of any sex discrimination or harassment found to have occurred, and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others, if appropriate. (OCR’s UVA LOF.

Basically, if a school’s policies and procedures contain these Title IX elements they also satisfy due process requirements afforded to students attending public institutions, which require:

  • Written notice of the allegations and nature of the evidence; and
  • A fair opportunity to present the student’s position, explanations, and evidence.

We’ve previously written about due process requirements, including the differences between conduct proceedings vs. criminal trials, and the right to cross-examine witnesses. As pointed out in our post, the OCR’s position on allowing the accused to question adverse witnesses through the hearing officer – but not direct cross examination – does not violate constitutional due process.

Campus Climate Surveys

In order to inform these policies, procedures, and prevention programs each school should conduct an annual “climate assessment” to gather data from students about incidents of sexual harassment and violence, find ways to encourage reporting, and develop prevention strategies that meet the needs of your campus community. The primary goal of the AAU climate survey was to inform policies to prevent and respond to sexual assault and misconduct.

In addition to informing policies and creating effective prevention strategies, conducting campus climate surveys provides critical data for allocating resources, which we have written extensively about on this blog. And the OCR has required climate surveys in several resolution agreements: University of Virginia, Michigan State University, Ohio State UniversityUniversity of Montana, Southern Methodist University, Lehigh University, Harvard Law School, Lyon College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Dayton, Cedarville University, Glenville State College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, State University of New York, Rockford University.

Conclusion

Every college and university has a unique student population with its own culture and complexity. Our goal at CampusClarity is to provide useful information to help all schools reach a common goal:  create policies, procedures, and prevention programs that eliminate sexual harassment on campus, off campus, and online.

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Campus SaVE Compliance: Continuing, On-Going Education & Prevention
Posted by On Tuesday, October 20, 2015

You administered Think About It on your campus… now what?  The Campus SaVE Act requires schools provide “primary prevention and awareness programs” for new students and employees, as well as ongoing education, which refers to campaigns that are sustained over time, occur at different levels, utilize a wide range of strategies, have appropriate content for the audience, and provide ways for individuals to get involved.

Think About It, our flagship course, and its follow-ups, Part II and Part III, and the future release of Think About It: Continuing Students provide schools with options for ongoing education. However, there are many complimentary things that you can be doing on your campus throughout the school year! They fall into three categories of prevention and education. The different categories of prevention originated out of the health field with a focus on disease and illness. The goal of preventative actions is to stop further progression of the condition. In this case, the condition is sexual violence and the goal is for prevention efforts to stop 100% of sexual violence incidents before they occur. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of the work, and so there are other forms of programming, resourcing, and education that can supplement prevention. For our purposes, we have added a fourth and fifth category to the type of work happening on campus to remediate the impacts of sexual violence. We categorize these as Risk Reduction and Awareness Education.

Primary Prevention: Efforts that address sexual violence before it happens

Secondary Prevention: Efforts that deal with immediate effects of sexual violence

Tertiary Prevention: Efforts that manage long-term effects of sexual violence

Risk Reduction: Efforts that give potential victims tools that could minimize risk of sexual violence

  • Personal safety apps (Livesafe, Companion)
  • Responsible partying tips
  • Bystander Intervention
  • Self-defense classes

Awareness Education: Efforts that build awareness of the sexual violence among the target population (These can often fall into the categories of secondary or tertiary prevention, but it is important to remember that on its own, awareness is not preventative)

Your on-campus and online efforts to eliminate the incidences and impacts of sexual violence have the ability to make culture change far beyond that of just your campus. College age men and women are at the highest risk for sexual assault, but that doesn’t mean the problems stop when they leave campus. The education and programming they receive during their years in college will impact them long after they leave, creating a healthier and safer world for us all to live in. CampusClarity is intentional about including components of each type of prevention and education in Think About It to best arm campuses with the tools needed to make lasting change.

  • Primary Prevention: Think About It uses social norming by asking students “insights” questions that gauge their perspective and then tell them how their peers responded. Often students think that their beliefs make them outliers, when really most of their peers have the same concern as well as the same belief.
  • Secondary Prevention: Throughout Think About It, there are links to hotlines like RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and allow for administrators to include on-campus and off-campus resources for students to counseling centers, hospitals, or other crisis interventions.
  • Tertiary Prevention: Think About It can be used as a tool to educate peers about how to best assist those who are struggling with abusive relationships, have experienced sexual assault, or overuse alcohol/drugs.
  • Risk Reduction: In Think About It, there is a focus on bystander intervention to encourage friends and peers to intervene in situations of risk. We also provide tips on partying safer. By acknowledging that students will still engage in these activities, we give them the resources needed to do it in the least risky way.
  • Awareness Education: When campuses use Think About It, they also gain access to Talk About It, our online resources that include posters and white papers about topics like sexual assault, dating violence, and alcohol use. We also link to reporting policies so that students gain the knowledge needed to report sexual violence or misconduct.

While CampusClarity provides as many resources as possible, we are definitely not able to do this alone. It is important that campuses also enlist the help of our partners in this fight to end sexual/dating violence. Check out the links above for some options.

Is there programming on your campus that you’re especially proud of? We’d love to hear your success stories at our Annual Summit this March. Please email talkaboutit@campusclarity.com for more information.

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Are Climate Surveys Part of Title IX/Clery Act Compliance?
Posted by On Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On April 29, 2014, the White House Task Force issued its “Not Alone” report with an overview of how to plan and conduct a campus sexual assault climate survey, as well as a sample survey based on best practices. The report urges “schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting the survey next year.”

In a May 2015 article, “Climate Surveys Are Coming,” readers were told, “The task force’s suggestion that schools conduct climate surveys is one of several signals that surveys soon will be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.”

On the same day that the White House report came out, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued the guidance document, “Questions & Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence,” which listed conducting climate surveys as one of the ways to “limit the effects of the alleged sexual violence and prevent its recurrence,” if a victim requests confidentiality and does not want formal action taken against the alleged perpetrator.

Other signals that campus climate surveys soon may be mandated include OCR agreements resulting from Title IX investigations and compliance reviews that require schools to conduct surveys, including: Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Montana, Southern Methodist University, Lehigh University, Harvard Law School, Lyon College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Dayton, Cedarville University, Glenville State College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, State University of New York, and Rockford University.

Instead of waiting for federal laws or Title IX guidance that mandate climate surveys, some states have already enacted laws requiring them:

  • Maryland House Bill 571 requires institutions of higher education to “DEVELOP AN APPROPRIATE SEXUAL ASSAULT CAMPUS CLIMATE SURVEY, USING NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED BEST PRACTICES FOR RESEARCH AND CLIMATE SURVEYS,” and submit to the Maryland Higher Education Commission on or before June 1, 2016 (and every two years thereafter), a report aggregating the data collected by the survey, including:
        1. Types of misconduct
        2. Outcome of each complaint
        3. Disciplinary actions taken by institutions
        4. Accommodations made to students
        5. Number of reports involving alleged nonstudent perpetrators
  • The New YorkEnough is Enough” law signed on July 7, 2015, requires all New York colleges and universities to conduct campus climate surveys at least every other year. The survey requirement goes into effect on July 7, 2016.
  • The State of Washington passed a new law (SSB 5518.SL), requiring state universities, the regional universities, The Evergreen State College, the community colleges, and the technical colleges to conduct a campus climate survey and report their findings to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2016.
  • Louisiana passed a new law (SB 255) which provides, “When funding is made available, each public postsecondary education institution shall administer an annual, anonymous sexual assault climate survey to its students.”
  • In addition, the Massachusetts legislature is considering Bill S. 650, which would create a task force to develop a sexual assault climate survey to be administered by colleges and universities selected by the task force.

Meanwhile, Boston University launched a student survey in March 2015 (see FAQs about BU’s survey) and, while not required by law, the University of California conducted a campus climate survey on its campuses in Spring 2013 (see results and FAQs). Previously, we’ve reported on published data from other climate surveys, what experts say, and how to get started.

With Congress back in session, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act may have gained some momentum from the July 29th hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Testimony received at that hearing included strong support from the Association of American Universities for campus climate surveys, pointing out that it is important that schools directly or indirectly control survey administration so that it addresses the unique circumstances of individual campuses.

We will continue to watch this closely as the patchwork quilt of climate survey requirements continues to unfold. We will also be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, October 13th with Peter Novak from University of San Francisco and Jessica Ladd from Sexual Health Innovations about climate surveys and data.  Follow our twitter account @CampusClarity for the link to register as the date gets closer.

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Recent State Laws: From “Campus Carry” to “Enough is Enough”
Posted by On Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Our primary focus has been on federal legislation to address campus sexual violence, including the pending HALT and CASA bills, as well as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 regulations that become effective July 1, 2015.

However, there have been a number of recent state law developments that pose additional challenges to many school administrators across the country. Below is a snapshot of some of the current state requirements for responding to and preventing campus sexual violence.

California
Previously, we reported on California’s “Yes Means Yes” law, which requires California’s colleges and universities receiving state funds for student financial aid to adopt a policy that defines what does and does not constitute consent to sexual activity. The law also has a July 1, 2015 deadline to have policies in place to ensure reports of violent crime, hate crime, and sexual assault received by campus security authorities are immediately disclosed to local law enforcement. To help schools comply with this requirement, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released a Model Memorandum of Understanding, which Harris said “will help break down silos between campuses and law enforcement agencies to provide sexual assault victims with the help they need and hold more perpetrators accountable.” This MOU adopts best practices for collaboration between school officials and law enforcement agencies, including: clarifying their respective duties following an assault, working together to connect victims to services, and providing regular training for campus and law enforcement communities.

Colorado
On May 4, 2015, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed HB 15-1220, which requires agreements between public and private colleges and universities and medical or other facilities where sexual assault victims can receive medical and forensic exams. Schools also need to make transportation to these facilities and referrals to advocates available to victims, and have sexual assault training and response policies.

Connecticut
Over the past several months, Connecticut has enacted laws to:

  • allow an anonymous reporting option, and require annual reports to the legislature on the school’s policies, victim rights, crime reports, and the number of disciplinary cases with final outcomes (HB 2059)
  • require memoranda of understanding with community-based assault crisis service centers and domestic violence agencies (HB 6695)
  • require sexual assault forensic examiners to provide care and treatment to victims of sexual assault at school health care facilities (SB 966)

Connecticut Senate Bill 636 is currently pending, which would establish an affirmative consent standard similar to California’s to be applied in sexual assault and intimate partner violence cases.

Illinois
Both Houses of the Illinois legislature have passed HB 821, the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, requiring colleges and universities to adopt comprehensive policies to address campus sexual violence. If signed by the governor, this Act will require schools to provide survivors’ notification of their rights and options, confidential advisors, and emergency and ongoing support. In addition, schools would need to establish one procedure to resolve complaints and provide sexual violence awareness training and education.

Maryland
Effective July 1, 2015, HB 571 requires colleges to:

  • conduct climate surveys on or before June 1, 2016, and every two years thereafter
  • submit reports to the Higher Education Commission on sexual assault data gathered, including number of complaints received, disciplinary action taken, and victim accommodations made, beginning on October 1, 2016, and every two years thereafter
  • pursue agreements with local law enforcement and local rape crisis programs
  • provide amnesty from code of conduct violations for alcohol or drugs to students who make good faith reports of sexual assault and witnesses who participate in investigations

Effective October 1, 2015, Maryland SB 477 adds victims of dating violence (who have had a sexual relationship with the offender within the past year) to the list of persons eligible for protective orders that provide broader protection for a longer period of time.

Minnesota
Effective January 1, 2017, the Higher Education Omnibus Bill requires public and certain private institutions to adopt policies that:

  • allow victims to decide if their case is referred to law enforcement
  • protect victims’ privacy
  • provide health care or counseling services, or referrals to services
  • prohibit victim blaming and retaliation
  • grant amnesty from drug or alcohol conduct violations to students who make good faith reports of sexual harassment, including sexual violence
  • establish cooperative agreements with local law enforcement
  • establish an online reporting system that allows anonymous reports
  • train investigators and persons adjudicating sexual assault complaints
  • train students within 10 days after the start of a student’s first semester of classes
  • annually train persons responsible for responding to sexual assault reports
  • designate a staff member at student health or counseling centers as a confidential resource

New York
New York’s “Enough is Enough” bill has passed both houses and is expected to be signed by Governor Cuomo. This legislation codifies a sexual assault prevention policy already adopted by all 64 SUNY campuses, requiring public and private colleges and universities with New York campuses to adopt policies that:

  • define consent as a clear, unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity
  • grant immunity for students reporting incidents of sexual assault or violence from certain campus policy violations, such as drug or alcohol use
  • provide a Bill of Rights to all students, informing them of their legal rights and available resources, including outside law enforcement
  • require comprehensive training for administrators, staff, and students

North Dakota
Effective August 1, 2015, Senate Bill 2150 was signed by North Dakota’s governor, making it the third state (see North Carolina General Statutes § 116-40.11 and Arkansas Act 1194) to allow students facing suspension or expulsion the right to be represented by an attorney or non-attorney advocate who may fully participate during disciplinary proceedings involving matters other than academic misconduct.

Oregon
Effective June 10, 2015, HB 3476 prohibits disclosure of communications with victims of sexual violence when they seek help from counselors and advocates unless the victim consents.

Effective January 1, 2016, SB 790 requires school districts to adopt policies that incorporate domestic violence education into training programs for students in grades 7-12 and school employees.

Texas
On June 13, 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a “campus carry” bill into law, which allows students who are 21 or older to carry concealed firearms on public and certain private college and university campuses. Before the law goes into effect on August 1, 2016, Senate Bill 11 allows school administrators to designate gun-free zones on campus and establish rules for storing handguns in dorms and other residential facilities, but those restrictions may not generally prohibit students from carrying handguns on campus.

Virginia
Enacted April 15, 2015, SB 712 requires specific action when responsible employees receive information about sexual violence, including:

  • the information must be reported to the Title IX coordinator “as soon as practicable after addressing the immediate needs of the victim”
  • the Title IX coordinator must meet within 72 hours with the review committee, which includes representatives of law enforcement and student affairs
  • if the allegations involve felony sexual assault the law enforcement representative must consult with a local prosecutor within 24 hours (however, personally identifiable information about persons involved will not be disclosed unless it is necessary to protect the victim or others)
  • schools must have a memorandum of understanding with a local sexual assault crisis center or other victim support service to connect victim with those services

Additionally, SB 1193 enacted on April 30, 2015, requires schools to include a “prominent notation” on the academic record of anyone who is suspended or dismissed for a sexual violence offense, or withdraws while under investigation. However, the notation will be removed if the student completes the disciplinary action and is thereafter deemed a student in good standing.

Washington
Effective July 24, 2015, Washington’s SB 5518 requires:

  • all institutions of higher education to establish one disciplinary process for sexual violence complaints
  • four-year institutions to conduct campus climate surveys to assess the prevalence of campus sexual assault, evaluate student and employee attitudes and awareness of campus sexual violence issues, and make recommendations for addressing and preventing sexual violence on and off campus
  • report survey results to the legislature by December 31, 2016
  • report on steps taken to enter into memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement by July 1, 2016

The Washington Student Achievement Council will also work with schools to develop rules and guidelines to eliminate gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, against students.

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Think About It Updates
Posted by On Thursday, May 28, 2015

 

Changes are coming to Think About It! We’ve made a number of additions and amendments in response to new research, updated regulations, and of course feedback from our users and clients. These changes will ensure the course is compliant with new laws and maintain our commitment to training built for and with our users. Many of the changes are small – minor revisions or tightening up the design – but some are more substantial. Below is a list and explanations of the major changes in our 2015 Think About It update. We have organized them into two broad categories: compliance updates and content updates.

Compliance Updates

A lot has changed in the four years since we started developing Think About It, including new regulations and laws at the state and federal levels. When the Campus SaVE Act passed in 2013, we added new content, and we regularly update the state laws in our courses. For the current update we implemented a more comprehensive set of changes based on the Department of Educations’s Title IX FAQ document and the final Campus SaVE Act regulations. Below are the major changes:

Understanding a survivor’s reactions – We added an interaction illustrating the effects of trauma on survivors of sexual assault. This addition was something we included in our seven month follow up course, “The Way Forward,” because we felt it was important to help students understand the science behind survivors’ sometimes counterintuitive response to trauma. However, the page also helps satisfy new guidance on student training requirements for Title IX compliance.

SurvivorReaction

Title IX – It is important that students understand the range of protections against sexual violence available to them. We added a new tabbed page explaining that Title IX prohibits sex discrimination and harassment as well as retaliation against someone who complains about or participates in sexual misconduct proceedings. In addition, the page provides contact information for the school’s Title IX office and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Conduct Proceedings – We replaced the old “Disciplinary Hearings” page with a new “Conduct Proceedings” page, based on new Title IX guidance and Campus SaVE Act regulations. The page provides detailed information about how to report sexual misconduct or find confidential resources, and a school’s required disciplinary procedures.

Analyzing Unwelcome Sexual Conduct – We added two new pages explaining what constitutes sexual harassment. These pages explain quid pro quo sexual harassment and how to analyze whether unwelcome sexual conduct creates a hostile environment.

Interim Measures – A new page called “Interim Measures” explains the range of protective measures that may be available for victims of sexual misconduct.

Retaliation Case Study – In order to help consolidate the new information we’ve included around sexual harassment, we added a new interaction that asks students to apply their knowledge of retaliation to a realistic scenario. The scenario also illustrates how Title IX protects students against retaliation.

RetaliationScenario

Resources – Students must have access to information about local and campus resources as well as reporting procedures at their school. We have changed the organization of the resources and created new documentation to better guide schools on what information to provide for inclusion in their courses.

Content Updates

WCAG 2.0 Accessibility – Accessibility is one of our clients’ highest priorities, so naturally it’s one of our highest priorities too. The 2015 version of Think About It is fully accessible HTML5 technology (WCAG 2.0 AA) and tablet supported.

Course Reorganization ­– Talking to clients and reading student feedback, we decided to reorder the course in a way that seemed more natural and helped the sections to reinforce each other. In the new course we’ve moved “Healthy Relationships” right after “Sex in College.” Placing them next to each other will help students see the connections between these important topics. The new course order is 1.) Prologue, 2.) Sex in College, 3.) Healthy Relationships, 4.) Partying Smart, 5.) Sexual Violence, 6.) Epilogue. We rewrote the section introductions and summaries in order to reflect this new order.

Prologue – In the prologue, we updated content about the prevalence of sexual violence against female college students and added information about sexual violence against male college students. The new information was drawn from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ special report “Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013.”

Pressure & Expectations – Think About It encourages students to think critically about the cultural and social pressures that influence their behaviors and attitudes. This kind of critical reflection helps students become more self-aware, empowering them to make safer, more informed decisions. We strengthened this approach by replacing “Elements of the Hook Up,” which was an informational page, with a new page that pushes students to reflect on the institutional, societal, and individual pressures that shape beliefs and attitudes around intimate behavior.

Alcohol and Identity – We replaced “Drinking and College Culture” with a new “Alcohol & Identity” page. The two pages are similar in purpose: both help students reflect on the cultural and social factors that influence their attitudes towards alcohol. Since individual schools’ cultures vary greatly, we expanded to focus to a broader set of issues while achieving the same learning objective.

Systemic Problems – As part of a comprehensive approach to sexual violence prevention, Think About It begins by addressing the college culture around intimacy. We include a video of interviews with students about college hook-up culture. The video confronts student misperceptions about how much their peers are hooking up as well as gender stereotypes, such as double standards. To better reach these goals, we shortened the video to focus its message and rewrote the feedback to the follow-up Insights Question.

Cyberstalking – Research and client feedback revealed the growing role of social media in stalking and bullying cases. To better inform students of how perpetrators use social media to stalk victims, we replaced the real stalking cases in Think About It with cyberstalking cases.

Relationship Violence – When students think about abusive relationships, many of them only think of physical abuse. But there are other kinds of abuse. To help students recognize the range of abusive behavior, we replaced the “Cycle of Abuse” page with a new page covering different types of “Relationship Violence.”

The Drug Deal – We heard from students and clients that they wanted to learn more about prescription drug abuse, which they perceived to be a growing problem on many campuses. In order to help address this request, we reworked the “Drug Deal” interaction to include more information on prescription drug abuse. We also included a few social norming questions, asking students about their peers’ substance use. We based these questions on data from national surveys. These questions will help dispel students’ misconceptions about drug abuse on their campuses.

Stages of Acquaintance Assault – We expanded content on responding to acquaintance assault to include information from Dr. Rebecca Campbell’s research on the neurobiology of many victims of sexual assault. We have also added a new page on the effects of trauma on survivors of sexual assault (see Compliance Updates).

Sources & Citations – We updated our sources and citations page to provide a more comprehensive list of the sources we consulted when building and updating the course and to direct interested students to resources for further research.

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The Campus Accountability and Safety Act
Posted by On Wednesday, July 30, 2014

As of this morning, there is a new acronym you need to learn: CASA, which stands for The Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This proposed legislation was introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill and a bipartisan group of Senators, and was developed with information gathered at three roundtable discussions that we wrote about on this blog.

The purpose of the legislation is to “create incentives for schools to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators.” In other words, under this legislation there would be more significant consequences for noncompliance:

  • a penalty of up to 1% of the institution’s operating budget for CASA violations, and
  • increased penalties of up to $150,000 for each Clery Act violation

The bill requires schools to:

  • designate confidential advisors to (1) receive anonymous or confidential reports of sexual violence, and (2) coordinate victim support services and accommodations, with the decision to report the crime to law enforcement or campus authorities left up to the victims or survivors
  • encourage reporting by prohibiting disciplinary action against students who disclose conduct violations, such as underage drinking, in the process of reporting a sexual assault
  • provide mandatory training for campus personnel who are involved in reporting or resolving complaints of sexual violence, on how to identify sexual violence and its effects on victims and survivors, and provide specialized training for those who are involved in grievance proceedings
  • use one disciplinary process for all sexual violence complaints and prohibit athletic departments and other groups from handling the investigation or resolution of these complaints
  • disclose in the Annual Security Report how many sex offenses were investigated by the institution the previous year, and the number of those cases referred for disciplinary hearing or criminal investigation, how many of the accused were found responsible, any sanction imposed, and how many complaints were closed without resolution
  • conduct an annual standardized online survey of students to determine the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence, their knowledge of school policies and procedures, the experience of those who reported sexual violence, and the context of those reported incidents
  • enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement to define their respective responsibilities and to share information in sexual violence cases, “when directed by the victim”
  • provide contact information for its Title IX coordinator to the Department of Education, which shall be posted on a Title IX website, together with information about pending compliance investigations

(more…)

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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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No Easy Answers At Third Roundtable Discussion With U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
Posted by On Thursday, July 10, 2014

We’ve previously written about the first and second roundtable discussions that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill held over the past couple of months. The third roundtable discussion held on June 23rd dealt with improving collaboration between local law enforcement and campus police, and the recurring question of how to bring perpetrators to justice. However, at the end of the day it was clear that there are no easy answers.

Nancy Cantalupo, a research fellow at the Victim Rights Law Center and adjunct law professor at Georgetown University, pointed out that sexual response teams have been a key best practice that brings internal and external people together. While she admitted that the relationship among the different perspectives and different goals may be dysfunctional at first, once they work through their differences, collaboration works.

Victim advocates emphasized confidentiality because “self-blame and shame has persisted among victims.” However, law enforcement explained that reporting to police so they can begin collecting evidence as soon as possible is critical to successful prosecutions in the criminal justice system. But, it was pointed out, until victims trust the system they won’t report to police and put their character and credibility on trial.

Carrie Hull, a detective with the Ashland, Oregon Police Department said her experience confirmed that confidentiality and reporting go hand in hand. After sexual assault victims were given options and, therefore, control over how their case was handled reports in Ashland rose 106% from 2010 to 2013. In Ashland, victims are given three options: (1) report information only, (2) authorize a partial investigation, or (3) request a complete investigation that will be referred to a prosecutor.

Jessica Ladd-Webert, the Victim Assistance Director at the University of Colorado at Boulder, agreed that when a victim has an advocate who gives them all of their options and helps them pursue the one they choose, it builds trust. Therefore, designating victim advocates as confidential resources, not mandated reporters, is critically important for victims.

According to these experts, giving victims confidentiality and control provides the support they need to increase reporting. The next question is how to make campuses safer by holding perpetrators accountable. The answer to that question is still being debated.

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