November 21, 2014

Gillibrand Along With Nine U.S. Senators Urge President Obama To Include Additional $7 Million In Funding In His Fy16 Budget Request To Enforce Campus Sexual Assault Provisions Of Clery Act And Title Ix Laws

Office for Civil Rights Investigating Increasing Number of Sexual Violence Complaints With Half The Staff It Had In 1980; Clery Act Compliance Division Has A Dozen Staff Members To Enforce The Law At Over 6,000 Colleges and Universities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand along with nine Senators today urged President Barack Obama to include an additional $7 million in funding to enforce campus sexual assault laws, in his FY 2016 Budget Request. The request for $2 million in additional funding for the U.S. Department of Education Clery Compliance Division and an additional $5.046 million for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) would be used to employ and train more staff within the Clery Compliance Division and OCR, to adequately investigate and enforce sexual assault laws at more than 6,000 colleges and universities in America.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012. A National Institute of Justice study indicates that college women are at a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college bound peers.

In addition to Senator Gillibrand, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Mark Warner (D-VA). In their letter to President Obama, the Senators wrote, “Given the extent of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, as well as the growing number of universities and colleges under investigation by the Department of Education for violations of Title IX related to campus sexual violence, there is a clear need for additional trained staff to enforce the laws currently on the books. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education recently published final regulations regarding the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 amendments to the Clery Act. These regulations expand the scope of requirements under the Clery Act for universities and colleges to more effectively address and reduce campus sexual violence. Proper enforcement of these new regulations and the existing provisions of the Clery Act and Title IX requires adequate funding.”

The Department of Education oversees laws covering sexual assault on campus. Title IX, a federal gender equity law, requires schools to take steps to eliminate sexual harassment, including sexual assault, prevent its recurrence and address its effects. The Jeanne Clery Act mandates that colleges and universities disclose information about crime on and around their campuses, including sex offenses, and establish and disseminate campus safety and security policies.

Each year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles more than 10,000 complaints against schools over violations of Title IX and other civil rights statutes, but has just half the staff it did in 1980, when OCR received a third of the amount of complaints as today. Not one position of OCR’s staff is dedicated exclusively to handling Title IX sexual violence complaints. As of November 12, 2014, OCR had pending investigations at 87 institutions of higher education for alleged violations of Title IX related to sexual violence, an increase of more than 50 percent over the past six months.  

The Clery Compliance Division has a dozen staff members to enforce the law at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the country, rendering the division unable to investigate the 63 percent of schools that failed to report crime statistics in the manner required by the Clery Act. From 2000 to 2013, Clery Act enforcement employees were only able to investigate and collect enough data to impose fines on just 21 colleges or universities. In addition, the recently published final regulations for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 amendments to the Clery Act expand the scope of requirements under the Clery Act for universities and colleges to more effectively address and reduce campus sexual violence. Proper enforcement of these new regulations and the existing provisions of the Clery Act and Title IX requires increased funding to hire and properly train staff to enforce these laws.

The full text of the letter to President Obama is attached.