Press Release

Gillibrand, McCaskill Call On Secretary Devos To Reverse Decision Hindering Sexual Assault Investigations

Jul 5, 2017

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are calling on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to reverse a decision made by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights which would hinder its ability to enforce Title IX rules and investigate sexual assault on college campuses.

“[Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice] Jackson’s decision allows regional administrators to use broad discretion when determining what past information is relevant to an investigation and will no longer require [the Office for Civil Rights] to review complaints they receive for the potential of a systemic problem, if such a systemic problem is not specifically alleged in the complaint,” wrote the Senators in a letter to Secretary DeVos. “We have seen through our work on this issue that often if a school fails to protect students from sexual assault or mishandles an incident of sexual assault that this is rarely an isolated case on that campus.”

The Senators continued: “The goal of the [Office for Civil Rights] must be to protect students and ensure that they are provided a safe and equitable educational experience. We believe that limiting investigations into campus sexual assault is an improper way to clear the current backlog and does not uphold the Department’s responsibility to enforce Title IX. We look forward to working with the Department and our Congressional colleagues to ensure that adequate resources are provided as a way to clear the current backlog and hope that the Department of Education will reverse its decision to limit the scope of investigations.”

Gillibrand and McCaskill led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in introducing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act—legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses by protecting students, promoting equity, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.

The Senators’ legislation would reform the way colleges and universities address and report incidents of sexual assault that occur on their campuses, and safeguards both survivors and accused students. It incorporates feedback from key stakeholders to strengthen how student surveys are conducted, as well as strengthens newly required training standards. The bill sets new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process.

Full text of letter HERE.