April 04, 2014

Gillibrand, Mccaskill Lead Bipartisan Letter For New Resources To Fight Sexual Assaults On College Campuses

Federal Agencies Responsible for Investigating, Enforcing Standards Left with a Fraction of Resources, Staff 10 Senators Call for New Funding to Enforce Campus Sexual Assault Laws, Hold Colleges Accountable for Reporting

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) today released a bipartisan letter signed by 10 of their colleagues to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, & Education leaders calling for new federal funding to investigate and enforce sexual assault laws at colleges and universities. 


“When our young people go on to higher education, it should be an opportunity to learn, grow, pursue their dreams and prepare for their future careers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But the price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. America’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. But it is simply unacceptable that they become havens for rape and sexual assault. It is time to take this crisis head on and end the scourge of sexual assault on our college campuses, hold offenders accountable, and keep our students safe.” 


“After being victimized by a crime as deeply traumatic and personal as a sexual assault, no young man or woman should be left to fend for themselves,” saidSenator McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes. “I fear that, like the U.S. military, we’re going to find systemic problems on our college campuses—including very low reporting due to lack of protections and resources. Our schools must provide the highest level of responsiveness to ensure that victims are protected and empowered, and that perpetrators don’t get a free pass.”

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012. This puts college women at a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college bound peers.

Laws covering sexual assault on campus are handled by the U.S. Department of Education, under Title IX and the Jeane Clery Act, which calls for colleges and universities to report information on crime on and around campuses, and provide victims with select rights and resources.   

Each year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles more than 10,000 complaints against schools over violations of Title IX, 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. 

Worsening the problem, the Clery Compliance Team has less than a dozen staff members to enforce the law at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the country, rendering the team unable to investigate the 63 percent of schools that failed to report crime statistics in the manner required by the Clery Act. Nearly one-third of the campus sexual assault policies at 299 colleges surveyed do not fully comply with 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.


To begin to get a handle on the growing crisis on campus sexual assault, Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill are working to equip the right federal agencies with the resources needed to create real accountability. 

Also joining the letter are Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), John Tester (D-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Barbera Boxer (D-CA).

The Senators’ complete letter is below:

 

The Honorable Tom Harkin                                       

Chairman                                                                                                                    

Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,                                           

Health and Human Services, & Education

United States Senate                                                                                                 

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable Jerry Moran

Ranking Member

Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,

Health and Human Services, & Education

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

 

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Moran,

 

We are writing to urge you to support additional funding for the compliance and enforcement of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) regarding sexual assault on college campuses.

 

Adequate investigation, resolution and enforcement for violations of the Clery Act and Title IX have been weak for many reasons, including a lack of trained staff dedicated to the problem of addressing the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.  In addition, new regulations from last year’s Violence Against Women Act reauthorization regarding monitoring and reporting under the Clery Act will be put into effect later this year and will require additional staff and training to handle the expected increased workload.

 

Therefore, we respectfully request that you provide $2 million to employ thirteen additional staff specifically trained and focused on investigating sexual assault cases as part of the Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division of the U.S. Department of Education.  In addition, we request at least $102 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 for the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the amount requested by the President, plus $5.046 million for OCR to hire staff exclusively dedicated to investigation and enforcement of Title IX provisions regarding sexual violence.

 

Campus sexual violence is a pervasive and deeply troubling problem that is plaguing colleges and universities across the United States. According to a 2007 campus sexual assault study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly one in five women in college and six percent of men in college will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault in the course of their undergraduate careers. A report from the National Institute of Justice revealed that college women are at higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college-bound peers. Campus sexual violence is a crime that threatens students’ physical and emotional health and undermines students’ right to a safe, non-hostile educational environment.

 

The U.S. Department of Education is charged with regulating institutions of higher education to ensure compliance with Federal laws dealing with campus sexual assault, namely, Title IX and the Clery Act. Within the U.S. Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Title IX and the Compliance Division of the Office of Federal Student Aid handles complaints against schools regarding violations of the Clery Act. OCR receives over 10,000 complaints each year regarding the broad range of Federal civil rights laws that OCR enforces. However, due to budget constraints, OCR is currently operating with less than half the staff the office had in 1980, when OCR received a third as many complaints. In addition, not one of OCR’s staff is dedicated exclusively to handling Title IX sexual violence complaints. The Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division has less than a dozen staff members who are responsible for enforcement of the Clery Act at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the United States.

  

Given the extent of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, there is a clear need for more  trained staff to enforce the laws currently on the books. In addition, the issuance of new Clery Act regulations later this year will only increase the demand on the U.S. Department of Education to tackle the problem of campus sexual assault. Therefore, we respectfully request sufficient funding to employ additional staff and institute added training for the Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division and at the Office for Civil Rights, exclusively dedicated to compliance and enforcement with federal regulations surrounding campus sexual violence.

 

We thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

 

 

Sincerely,