Department of Education: Hold colleges accountable that break the law by refusing to protect students from sexual assault
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Trigger warning: this petition contains information about sexual assault that may be upsetting to survivors.
We are members of a group of hundreds of students and recent graduates fighting sexual violence at colleges and universities, driven by our own experiences of assault, harassment, and abuse on campus. Many of us filed complaints with the Department of Education's Office of Civil rights because we feel our schools broke federal law by refusing to protect us either before or after we were assaulted. In fact, the Department of Education has only ever publicly found one school to be in noncompliance with the law, even though a recent study suggests nearly two thirds of colleges in America don't comply.
We started this petition to demand that the Department of Education step up to hold colleges and universities publicly accountable for complying with federal law about protecting survivors of sexual assault like us.
Indeed, one in four women will be raped by the time she graduates college. And, often, survivors are betrayed by the school administrations they turn to after their assault. In this past year alone, hundreds of survivors from dozens of schools have bravely shared their experiences. Almost all have been silenced or ignored by their campus administrations, and most have been forced to drop classes, clubs, sports teams, jobs – or abandon their educations entirely – in order to ensure their basic safety.
These practices aren’t only unethical; they’re illegal. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments – the landmark civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantees students the fundamental right to education free from sexual violence and harassment. Yet, over 40 years later, little has changed: according to the National Institute of Justice, nearly two in three schools don’t follow anti-violence law.
Some of these schools have been investigated by the Department of Education (ED), the body charged with enforcing Title IX. But ED’s willingness to accept colleges’ promises to change their ways -- rather than levy sanctions and publicly declare offending schools as “noncompliant” -- isn’t working. In the face of ED’s leniency, schools aren’t changing their ways, and students continue to suffer sexual violence and institutional abuse.
The Department released a remarkable set of guidelines in the 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter,” and this year it has the opportunity to show its commitment to students by following up this strong language with effective action. In the past twelve months, an unprecedented number of survivors have filed Title IX complaints with ED against colleges and universities across the United States, including the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Dartmouth College, Swarthmore College, Occidental College, the University of California - Berkeley, and the University of Southern California. More complaints are expected in the upcoming months.
To create safe, fair campuses across the country, we call on ED to join us in the fight against campus sexual violence by enforcing Title IX law.After we collect signatures, we will deliver this petition during a demonstrationat 11am on July 15th in front of the Department (400 Maryland SW, DC) and would love for you to join us and show how many people care about this national problem.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. More than four decades after Title IX, it is long past time we be able to enjoy our right to safe education.
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