States prepare for showdown against Feds on sexual assault
- Officials in California, New York and Illinois are gearing up for what some say could be inevitable court battles over federal sexual assault guidance.
- The U.S. Department of Education is expected to amend the Obama-era guidance, issued in 2011, and experts expect changes to the standard of proof guidelines, after several states have adopted those standards into law.
- Victims rights advocates already say the federal government has "walked away" from its responsibility to enforce sexual assault prevention, according to reporting by Inside Higher Ed.
Those in the education community have feared since Betsy DeVos' confirmation that she would be ruinous for victim's rights in sexual assault proceedings. However, regardless of legislative language or any "Dear Colleague" letter which comes down from the U.S. Department of Education, the burden of stemming sexual assault actually lies with individual campus leaders, who are responsible for both protecting victims and ensuring due process to the accused.
Baylor yesterday settled a lawsuit stemming from findings that the institution and its leaders had allowed a "culture of violence" to emerge from years of cover-ups and ignored allegations surrounding its football team. The plaintiff alleged leaders knew about at least 52 acts of rape by more than 30 football players over several years — grossly disparate figures from the 17 attacks involving 19 players to which the institution had previously copped. The Baylor scandal led to a complete shake-up in the administration. As many presidents are learning in the new millennium, social media and the demands of a 24-hour news cycle mean incidents which used to be local to a specific campus are now global conversations, and this puts added pressure on boards and other university leaders to make drastic changes when cases of malfeasance come to light.
Campus leaders can't prevent sexual assault any more than they can prevent a shooter on campus or a hurricane knocking out facilities, however transparency, constant communication and being clear about expectations for student and staff conduct — and swiftly reacting if those expectations are broken — can mean the difference between saving one's job and being the next headline.
- Inside Higher Ed A Looming State-Federal Conflict on Sex Assault
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