By: Barbara Hart, Principal in G&E’s Civil Rights Practice
According to USA TODAY’s investigation “Title IX: Falling short at 50,” U.S. colleges and universities are indeed still falling short of the requirements instituted by Title IX since it was enacted in 1972. Title IX was passed by Congress, designed to protect women from being discriminated against in educational programs due to their gender, especially in college or university settings. This protection extends to campus sexual assault as well, requiring colleges that receive federal funding to adequately investigate complaints of sexual violence.
USA TODAY’s investigation uncovered many inconsistencies among dozens of university Title IX offices and the way complaints were handled. The research showed that many Title IX offices are understaffed and therefore are unable to efficiently address survivors’ complaints. Oftentimes, survivors’ cases were dragged out for months on end, and perpetrators were scolded with minor punishments and minimal action. Specifically, the analysis showed that universities expelled 1 in 22,900 students accused of sexual misconduct and suspended only 1 in 12,400 students accused. In contrast, the analysis found as many as 1 in 5 female college students experienced sexual assault. These rates were even higher among LGBTQ+ students.
One woman, a doctoral student at Michigan State University, lodged a complaint against another student for his obsessive romantic interest in her, which grew to sexual harassment, stalking, and the woman filing a police report and a restraining order against him. The investigation, filed under Title IX, dragged out for almost 10 months and resulted in a mere sanction of disciplinary probation. The offender graduated from Michigan State that year with a master’s degree, which felt like a “slap in the face” and was “retraumatizing,” said the survivor.
Almost all of the schools surveyed agreed that the Title IX process is not a perfect system, however this alarming data proves that “we have quite a distance still to travel to make Congress’ 50-year-old promise true in students’ lives,” notes Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon, who heads the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. “The change that we are seeing in this country is slow. It’s insufficient…It’s less than we need and it’s enormously frustrating…” Lhamon adds.
Was Your Title IX Sexual Assault Complaint Mishandled by Your School?
If you or someone you love is a survivor of sexual misconduct or sexual violence at a college, university, or other education institution, it’s important to know your rights and have someone fighting for you to hold those responsible accountable. Hiring a Title IX lawyer may be an option for you. If you feel you have not been heard by your college or university, speak with an attorney experienced in Title IX proceedings. Call us at 855-244-2031 and make your story known.
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