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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 The stakes are also high: federal funds may be withdrawn from a school that has a “policy or practice” of releasing a student’s education records.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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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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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 22, 2015

A new study reveals a sexual assault epidemic at one school in New York, Huffington Post publishes a list of schools under Title IX investigation for sexual harassment, and U.S. News looks at what’s working and what still needs to be done in the fight against campus sexual assault.

New Study Published on the Prevalence of Sexual Assault

We’ve written extensively about the debate over the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and the need for more data about the rate at which college students are victimized by sexual violence. Now, a new study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests there is at least one upstate New York university where over 18% of women will become victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year. Rape was defined as “vaginal, oral, or anal penetration using threats of violence or use of physical force, or using the tactic of victim incapacitation.” 15% of the women surveyed were victims of completed or attempted rape while they were incapacitated, and a further 9% were victims of completed or attempted rape by force. While the survey’s small sample size means that it will not be putting the debate over the nation-wide prevalence of sexual assault to rest, it serves as further evidence of the desperate need to address college campus rapes.

Schools under Title IX Investigation for Sexual Harassment Cases

The Department of Education’s OCR has been disclosing the names of schools under Title IX investigation for failing to properly adjudicate sexual assault cases for some time. What they haven’t done, until now, is release the names of schools under Title IX investigation for mishandling sexual harassment cases. Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Huffington Post, that list of schools is available—click the link above to see it on their website. The Huffington Post makes a strong argument for the relevance of this information to current and prospective students of the listed institutions, pointing out that besides the impact harassment itself has on a student’s well-being and learning environment, such behavior is “inextricably linked” to sexual assault.

Sexual Assault: What’s Working, What Work Still needs to be Done

This piece from US News and World Report takes a look back at some of the efforts to combat sexual assault we’ve seen over the past few years. While the article highlights impressive gains, especially in the arena of increased awareness, it also points out that there is much work that still needs to be done. The piece calls for ongoing training programs that make an actual effort to change campus culture, as opposed to brief sessions intended only to fulfill a legal requirement, and for colleges “to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing sexual assault, rather than a piece-by-piece approach.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 8, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have two different articles focusing on different aspects of the data released last Tuesday by the Department of Education and a list of seven things to know about CASA from the National Law Review.

Good News: The Number of Reported Sexual Assaults is Up

The data released by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Federal Student Aid office (FSA) last Tuesday in response to a request from Senators Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tim Kaine, confirmed a trend we’ve noted earlier —the number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses has been and continues to increase dramatically. In 2009, 3,300 assaults were reported. In 2013, there were over 6,000 reports. As we and others have covered extensively, this is a positive development in the fight against campus sexual violence, suggesting that increased awareness has made students feel more comfortable reporting incidents of sexual violence than they did in the past. However, as pointed out by this article from the Christian Science Monitor, the number of reported assaults still trails far behind the numbers reported in anonymous surveys, indicating there is still much work to do.

Bad News: The Length of OCR Investigations is Also Up

One unfortunate side effect of the federal government’s aggressive efforts to address campus sexual violence is a dramatic increase in the average length of Title IX investigations. The same report discussed in the above story reveals that the average OCR investigation now takes 1,469 days—around four years, meaning that even a student who filed a complaint as a freshman would graduate before the investigation was resolved. As this piece from Bloomberg Business points out, there are serious consequences of an investigation dragging on that long—solutions to the problems that led to the complaint are delayed, the facts of the pertinent cases become more difficult to ascertain, and victim/survivors are denied closure. However, as the renewed focus on sexual assault leads to more and more complaints and investigations, the OCR has seen its budget cut — reducing its full-time staff from 1,148 to 544 between 1980 and 2014 — contributing to delays and a backlog of cases.  The President’s budget proposal and Senators Kaine, Boxer, and Gillibrand have called for increased funding for the OCR.

The National Law Review Tells You What You Need to Know About CASA

If you follow this blog regularly you’ll have seen this analysis of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the proposed law with bipartisan support that would introduce new, more stringent regulations for how colleges and universities handle sexual harassment and violence. The article above, published by the National Law Review, highlights seven aspects of the proposed law you should be aware of, including increased fines, a Campus Climate Survey requirement, and broader reporting requirements.

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Three Takeaways From the OCR’s Guidance Package
Posted by On Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Without much fanfare, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a “Guidance Package” on April 24, 2015, which includes a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), a Dear Title IX Coordinator Letter, and a Title IX Resource Guide. The three takeaways from the OCR’s Guidance Package are: (1) all primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools must have a Title IX coordinator; (2) Title IX coordinators must be given adequate authority and training to meet their obligations; and (3) interfering with a Title IX coordinator’s efforts to do their job violates Title IX’s anti-retaliation provision.

The DCL is a seven-page reminder that “all school districts, colleges, and universities receiving Federal financial assistance must designate at least one employee to coordinate their efforts to comply with and carry out their responsibilities under Title IX . . ..” Another significant guidance document—Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence, released in April of 2014 — had already pointed out that designating a Title IX coordinator is one of three key procedural requirements in the Title IX regulations. This latest DCL leaves no doubt that this is not a matter of simply adding a title to someone’s long list of job duties:

This position may not be left vacant; a recipient must have at least one person designated and actually serving as the Title IX coordinator at all times.

An OCR spokesperson said that many schools currently under investigation do not have a Title IX coordinator. For example, Brown University just hired its first Title IX coordinator this month. Apparently, the OCR is lighting a fire under schools that have not yet taken this step.

The DCL lays out the Title IX coordinator’s responsibilities and authority, emphasizing that it is a Title IX violation to interfere with the Title IX coordinator’s performance of their job responsibilities:

Title IX’s broad anti-retaliation provision protects Title IX coordinators from discrimination, intimidation, threats, and coercion for the purpose of interfering with the performance of their job responsibilities.

To establish a strong and visible role in the community for the Title IX coordinator, the DCL encourages schools to create a prominent link on its homepage to a dedicated webpage with the Title IX coordinator’s contact information, Title IX policies and grievance procedures, and other resources related to Title IX compliance and gender equity.

To keep informed of the laws, regulations, and OCR guidance on campus safety, the DCL recommends regular training for Title IX coordinators and all employees whose responsibilities are related to the school’s Title IX obligations.

Also included in the guidance package is a Letter to Title IX Coordinators with a Resource Guide, which covers Title IX basics, as well as the Title IX coordinator’s administrative duties and role in helping schools meet their Title IX obligations. The letter contains this warning: “To be an effective Title IX coordinator, you must have the full support of your institution.”

As Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, said in the OCR’s press release, “A critical responsibility for schools under Title IX is to designate a well-qualified, well-trained Title IX coordinator and to give that coordinator the authority and support necessary to do the job.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 10, 2015

This week we have more on the growing list of school’s under investigation, data on what usually happens to those schools, and one of the possible consequences of increased scrutiny of colleges and universities.

The List of Schools Investigated for Title IX Grows to 106

The U.S Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is currently investigating 106 colleges and universities for Title IX compliance related to the schools’ handling of sexual violence cases. This number has almost doubled since May last year, when the DOE first revealed the list of schools it was investigating. Catherine Lhamon, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, explained last May that the OCR was releasing the list “to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights.” She also clarified that being under investigation did not mean that the college or university “is violating or has violated the law.”

Four Charts Showing What Happens to Schools Accused of Discrimination

What happens to schools investigated by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights? Based on nearly 9,000 complaints the OCR investigated over the last 11 years, these charts reveal the vast majority of Title IX cases were simply dismissed. Furthermore, no Title IX investigation resulted in “enforcement,” where the OCR would strip a school of federal funding. Instead schools enter into resolution agreements with the OCR first, obligating schools to take steps that meet the OCR’s Title IX compliance requirements. For example, it was reported last May that after “Tufts defiantly backed out of an agreement,” the OCR “warned that it could move to terminate Tufts’ federal funding if the university did not comply, a result so catastrophic that it virtually required Tufts to reach some understanding with the government.” Once Tufts’ president received “clarity” about the basis for OCR finding the university in violation of Title IX, Tufts agreed to change its policies on how to handle sexual assault cases.

The Tufts case supports commentators in the recent Bloomberg article, suggesting that the lack of enforcement demonstrates how the threat of losing federal funding forces schools into compliance: too much is at stake for schools to do anything but concede to the OCR’s requests. Other commentators, however, argue that the lack of enforcement exposes the OCR’s weakness and the lack of political will to punish schools for violating Title IX. It is worth noting, however, that the number of Title IX complaints rose fivefold between 2012 and 2013. The article attributes the spike to the OCR’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which laid out a school’s responsibilities to respond to complaints of sexual harassment.

30 Fraternities Shut Down in Past Month

One way schools are responding to increased scrutiny by the OCR and in the media is by cracking down on misconduct. As we’ve been covering for a while now, fraternities in particular have felt the heat of school’s greater vigilance. As this Huffington Post article reports, since the beginning of March alone, thirty fraternities have been shut down by their school or their national headquarters. The incidents that prompted the closures cover a range of student conduct violations. According to the article, one fraternity used a stun gun to intimidate its pledges and another damaged 45 rooms at a ski resort. The article suggests that the Internet may also be partially responsible for the increased scrutiny, since it’s easier to “circulate ­­– and catch – examples of misbehavior.” The article ends, however, with a comment from Jason Laker, a professor at San Jose State University. Laker reminds us that some of fraternity members’ bad behavior may have roots in larger cultural constructs of masculinity.

 

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5 Stories About Compliance That You Need to Know this Fall
Posted by On Thursday, August 28, 2014

We know you’re busy preparing your campus for the Fall semester or welcoming students to campus. Over the next few months, however, there are some important developments you should be following. Below is a handy overview.

The Campus SaVE Act Regulations

Yes, the Campus SaVE Act is already law, but the regulations are still being finalized and won’t be released until November.

Signed into law in March of 2013, the Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act. It includes three major provisions: it expands the crimes that schools must report in their Annual Security Report; it establishes what should be included in the school’s policies and procedures to address campus sexual assault; and, finally, it mandates extensive “primary prevention and awareness programs” — which include training for students and staff — regarding recovery, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct and related offenses.

After a process of negotiated rulemaking, the Department of Education published the draft regulations for the SaVE Act in the Federal Register this June, collected public comments on the proposed regulations this summer, and will publish the final regulations by November 1st. The regulations will be effective by July 1, 2015. Though the final regulations have not been published, schools need to make a good faith effort to comply with the SaVE Act by October 1st this year.

Check out some of our past coverage of the SaVE Act.

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act (CASA)

Of the bills recently introduced into the Senate or House of Representatives, CASA has received the lion’s share of the attention. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill are the most visible sponsors of the bill, but CASA enjoys strong bi-partisan support and includes prominent Republican co-sponsors such as Marco Rubio. The bill was developed by McCaskill and Gillibrand through a series of roundtables with victims, survivors, experts, advocates, and administrators. The senators also conducted a national survey of colleges and universities about how they responded to sexual misconduct on their campuses. Based on the findings of the survey and roundtables, the bill aims to curb campus sexual violence “by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.”

Specifically, the bill introduces fines for non-compliant institutions of up to 1% of their operating budgets and increases penalties for Clery Act violations from $35,000 to as much as $150,000 per violation. In terms of transparency, CASA would establish a government administered annual campus climate survey as well as a website run by the Department of Education with contact information for all Title IX coordinators and information on the Department of Education’s investigations, findings, and resolution agreements related to Title IX. Finally, the bill increases support and resources for victims and survivors through provisions detailing extensive training for staff, the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all higher-education institutions, and a required amnesty policy for students who reveal conduct violations (such as underage drinking) when reporting in good faith an incident of sexual violence.

For our past coverage, check out this list of our stories about CASA.

The Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act)

Introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, and in the House by Susan Davis, the SOS Campus Act is fairly straightforward; it would require schools to “designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault and prevention.” The Advocate would help victims and survivors connect with support resources like counseling or legal services and guide them through the reporting and adjudication processes. The bill emphasizes the independence of this new position, explaining that “the Advocate shall represent the interests of the student victim even when in conflict with the interests of the institution.”

Boxer recently wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, asking her to voluntarily adopt the provisions in the bill: “I am working hard to pass the SOS Campus Act in Congress, but our students cannot afford to wait another minute for that to happen.”

Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT Act)

Introduced by Representatives Jackie Speier and Pat Meehan, the HALT Act — like CASA — would improve transparency around campus sexual assault and increase the sanctions for schools violating student’s Title IX civil rights.

The HALT Act would require public disclosure of resolution agreements and program reviews from Title IX investigations and create mandatory climate surveys (the first of which would have to be administered no later than April 1st, 2015). It would also create a Campus Sexual Violence Task Force that would, among other things, publish an annual report on these issues.

With the praise of some and the condemnation of others, the bill would also create much stronger sanctions for non-compliant schools. It gives the Office of Civil Rights the ability to levy fines, “the amount of which shall be determined by the gravity of the violation.” It also gives students a private right of action. In other words, students could sue schools directly without going through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

New Training Materials

The White House’s Not Alone report promised a host of new training materials and information on best-practices for this fall. Below is a list of what we can expect:

  • This Fall — “the CDC, in collaboration with the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and the Department of Education, will convene a panel of experts to identify emerging, promising practices to prevent sexual assault on campus.”
  • September — “the Justice Department’s Center for Campus Public Safety will develop a training program for campus officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases.”
  • December — “the Department of Education, through the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, will develop trauma-informed training materials for campus health center staff.”

We look forward to the release of these materials, which should prove valuable to schools trying to develop and improve their comprehensive awareness and prevention programs.

Even without the passage of any new legislation, new federal regulations, along with the recommendations and workshops, should provide schools with a strong set of requirements and best practices that will help them change campus culture to eliminate sexual violence.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 1, 2014

One of the most important requirements of Title IX, and one that many schools may be scrambling to fulfill, is that any school that receives federal funding must appoint a Title IX coordinator. Today, we want to focus on this requirement, with a few stories about the duties of Title IX coordinators, and some interviews with Title IX compliance officers about what their position requires.

Must-Knows for Title IX Coordinators

This piece, written by Anthony Walesby, current Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs for the University of Michigan, and former federal investigator for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, outlines the must-knows for Title IX coordinators and the crucial role they play in addressing campus sexual violence. Walesby emphasizes the importance of staying informed about Title IX requirements since a school’s Title IX compliance is ultimately the responsibility of its Title IX coordinator, but he also points out that compliance requires the participation of many campus partners who have other interests and concerns. Therefore, Walesby gives this advice to Title IX coordinators:  “Your work may not always be appreciated or popular with everyone all the time, but in the end, you are doing what is in the best interest of your institution. Always keep that in mind.”

Q&A with Stanford’s New Title IX Coordinator

Much like Walesby, Stanford’s recently appointed dedicated Title IX coordinator, Catherine Criswell, comes to the university after a 19-year career with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, in which she focused largely on Title IX investigations. In this interview, Criswell talks about how that experience will inform her work on the Stanford campus, discusses the importance of creating “lasting culture change around issues of sexual assault and sexual violence,” and lays out some of her plans for her work as Title IX coordinator, including establishing a campus climate survey, as recommended by the White House task force report.  In addition to being a neutral investigator, Criswell sees her role as educating the campus community about Title IX rights and reaching out to students, faculty, and staff to find out more “about the climate around these issues at Stanford and about what they would like to see happen.”

Q&A with Harvard’s New Title IX Coordinator

We’ve reported before on Harvard’s new sexual assault policy, set to go into effect with the start of the coming school year. In this interview Mia Karvonides, Harvard’s Title IX officer (and another former OCR attorney) discusses the challenges of implementing the new policy across multiple Schools, each with their own Title IX coordinators, the process of formulating the new policy, and the resources available to Harvard students who are victim/survivors of sexual violence and harassment. However, as Karvonides points out, Harvard is one community and the new central office she heads – the Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution – will investigate complaints of sexual misconduct against students and “create a new level of continuity and consistency.”

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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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