One in five women, and a number of men and genderqueer students, will suffer sexual violence during their time in college. While Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments requires colleges to support sexual assault survivors and act to prevent violence before it occurs, too many schools shirk their legal obligations, sweeping violence under the rug with an aim to protect their public image over students’ safety. Institutions know that they will rarely be held accountable for violating the law; in its entire history, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency tasked with enforcing Title IX, has never sanctioned a school for sexual assault-related violations.
This needs to change. The OCR’s current threatened sanction, the full removal of federal funding from noncompliant schools, would hurt students right alongside their universities. It's what Senator Claire McCaskill has called “an idle threat" that is "like having no penalty.” And it’s why we’re calling on Congress to provide the OCR with another enforcement tool: the authority to levy fines against schools in violation of Title IX.
While the fines alone might not convince a school to change—and while they should not be so onerous that they harm current students—the resulting headlines, read by prospective students and alumni donors across the country, will be unambiguous; in the prestige game of American academia, a rape fine would deal a deep blow.
Senators Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Richard Blumenthal are looking to introduce legislation to combat campus sexual violence. They know, as we do, that the OCR needs more tools at its disposal. And they’ve already held a series of roundtables to discuss, among other reforms, the possibility of issuing legislation granting the OCR fining authority. This is a fight we can win. With your help, we've made so much progress in our fight for better federal enforcement in just our first year. Now join Know Your IX and The Nation in calling on legislators to make Title IX’s 42-year-old promise a reality.
Dear Senators McCaskill, Gillibrand and Blumenthal,
We are so grateful for your efforts to support survivors and end campus sexual assault. As you know, the rampant violence that one in five women, and a number of men and genderqueer students, suffer during their time in college is one of the biggest safety and civil rights crises of our time. While colleges and universities have a legal obligation under federal civil rights law Title IX to protect and support survivors, too many shirk their legal obligations, sweeping violence under the rug with an aim to protect their public image over students’ safety.
But there’s something we can do. We ask you to take action to provide the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) the authority to levy fines against schools in violation of civil rights laws over which OCR has oversight, including Title IX. The OCR’s current threatened sanction, the full removal of federal funding from noncompliant schools, is a nuclear option that would devastate students right alongside their universities. But issuing fines would allow current students to continue their educations while sending a resounding message to schools across the country: we will no longer tolerate violence and injustice on our nation’s campuses.
We believe, as we know you do too, that the price of a college education should not include a one in five chance of being assaulted. That’s why we’re asking you to give the Department of Education the authority to truly hold institutions accountable for their handling of sexual assault.
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