Friday, January 31, 2014

A White House Call to Action

In an unprecedented move, President Obama added his presidential powers to the pressure building on colleges and universities* to teach students, staff, and faculty how to prevent and respond to rape and sexual assault. 

What type of education program is required? The White House is working on providing guidance on this question. On January 22nd, President Obama announced that he had created a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to provide schools with best practices and step up enforcement of federal laws requiring colleges to address the problem of campus sexual assault.

Adding to the urgency, the Task Force must deliver to the President by April 22, 2014:
  • examples of prevention programs, and training and orientation modules for students, staff, and faculty, as well as policies and procedures for responding to sexual assault complaints
  • recommendations for measuring institutions' prevention and response efforts and making this information available to the public
  • proposals for maximizing the government's enforcement activities

As soon as these examples, recommendations, and proposals are available we will have a better idea of what a compliant education program looks like. Going forward, the Task Force is required to submit annual reports to the President regarding implementation of its recommendations.

On the same day as the White House formed the Task Force, the President's Council on Women and Girls presented its report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action."  This report focuses on the Administration's "major effort to better enforce" federal laws that require institutions of higher education to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault. 

As the report points out, both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice are charged with enforcing these laws, including the Campus SaVE Act which requires colleges and universities to provide prevention education programs for students and employees on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Currently, the Department of Education is conducting negotiated rulemaking proceedings to draft regulations implementing the specific education requirements of the Campus SaVE Act. Final regulations are expected to be issued by November 2014.

In the meantime, when the Campus SaVE Act became effective on October 1, 2013, the ED said: "we expect institutions to make a good faith effort to comply with the statutory requirements in accordance with the statutory effective date." While we wait for the final regulations, we'll look for the Task Force report to provide further guidance on what constitutes a good faith effort.

* All institutions of higher education that receive federal funds are covered by Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act. These institutions include colleges, universities, community colleges, graduate and professional schools, for-profit schools, trade schools, and career and technical schools.

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