Students detail problems with colleges’ Title IX processes

Dive Brief:

  • One in four survivors of sexual violence who reported it to campus officials have experienced “subsantial disruption” to their education, according to a recent survey by advocacy organization Know Your IX. 

  • A report the group released this week describes a “massive failure” by colleges and other schools to fulfill their obligations under Title IX, the law banning sex discrimination on campuses. It is based on responses from 107 students.

  • Sexual assault survivor activists are pressing the Biden administration to reverse the controversial federal regulation governing Title IX that was put in place under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Dive Insight:

The report contains anecdotes from students who reported sexual violence to their institutions, including some K-12 schools, over nearly two decades. In it, survivors recount the aftermath of their assaults: more than 40% suffered from PTSD, and one quarter said they felt depressed.

They also detailed problems reporting to their schools. 

One student said a call to her campus Title IX office to report her assault was never returned. Another student who attempted to report said a Title IX coordinator told her “if you don’t want to report it and ruin his life, you don’t have to,” after the survivor raised concerns about jeopardizing the accused students’ immigration status. 

Seventy percent of survivors who informed their school about their assaults said they experienced “adverse effects on their safety and privacy,” and 15% said their schools punished them or threatened to do so “in connection with coming forward.”

Know Your IX’s report makes several recommendations for assisting survivors federally and at the campus level. Mental health services should be readily available on and off campus, and confidential crisis advocates should be accessible 24/7, the group said. Survivors should also receive residential, dining and academic accommodations as needed.

Specifically, the Education Department should mandate that survivors be allowed to break residential leases with colleges without penalty, Know Your IX said. And the department should extend students’ grace periods for repaying federal loans if they leave school because of sexual violence.

The group also outlined the rights that survivors and accused students should be granted during Title IX processes. 

Due process concerns were a primary reason for DeVos pursuing changes to Title IX policy. The rule that took effect last August limits the sexual violence cases colleges would need to investigate and creates a judicial-style procedure for hearing them.

President Joe Biden last week ordered the Education Department to review the Title IX regulation and consider reworking it. This followed more than 100 House Democrats writing to the new Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, asking him to work with the Justice Department to block the rule.

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