This post was originally published at Feministing.
Student survivors are calling on the Department of Education to enforce Title IX, and we’re asking for your support–and your signature.
It’s baffling that, 41 years after Title IX first required schools to take measures to prevent violence and accommodate survivors’ needs, so many colleges and universities are still blatantly violating this law: according to the National Institute for Justice, 63% of schools are out of compliance with these federal requirements. How are they getting away with this?
A big and very disappointing reason is the Department of Education’s reluctance to hold administrations accountable. Don’t get me wrong: the Department has made some important strides in the past few years. The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter clarified schools’ responsibilities under Title IX and former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali made sexual violence a priority for her team. However, despite strong statements in support of students’ rights, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) isn’t enforcing the law.
After investigating a college, the OCR can make an official finding of non-compliance (analogous to a guilty verdict) and then refer the case to the DOJ and possibly refuse federal funding. However, in response to nearly every complaint in its history the OCR has instead entered into a “voluntary resolution agreement” with the offending school: basically, the Department accepts a signed promise from the college that it will do better in the future rather than make any official finding or levy sanctions.
This strategy may be well-intentioned, rooted in a desire to work with schools, rather than against them, but it just doesn’t work. I know this firsthand: I worked with classmates to file a Title IX complaint against my university when I was an undergrad, but, despite a thorough OCR investigation exposing serious violations, I continue to hear stories about the administration silencing and shaming survivors–abuses just like those that prompted the complaint in the first place. Colleges are getting away with continued institutional abuse because the OCR won’t force them to change, and students’ safety and educations are sacrificed in the process.
I’m working with a collective of students from across the country to call on the Department to join the fight against campus sexual violence by enforcing Title IX. And we need you! On July 15th we’ll be delivering a petition to the Department: please sign here and, if you’re near DC, join us for the ED ACT NOW rally and teach-in. We need lots of help spreading the word, too. Any tweets and Facebook posts help; we’re connecting with the hashtag #EdActNow. Here are some sample posts under 140 characters to copy and paste!
Students across the country are rising to demand justice with an unprecedented number of Title IX complaints filed and protests erupting across the country, but to build safe campuses we need the Department to stand with us.
Alexandra Brodsky is a feminist anti-violence activist and writer for Feministing. She tweets as @azbrodsky.
Photo Credit Alexandra Brodsky