Month: August 2017

AG Doug Chin calls on Secretary Devos to maintain protections for survivors of campus sexual assault

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State Seal
DEPARTMENT OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
 
DAVID Y. IGE
GOVERNOR
DOUGLAS S. CHIN
ATTORNEY GENERAL
For Immediate Release                                                                                                                             News Release 2017-93
July 19, 2017
ATTORNEY GENERAL DOUG CHIN CALLS ON SECRETARY DEVOS TO MAINTAIN
PROTECTIONS FOR SURVIVORS OF CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT
HONOLULU — Attorney General Doug Chin today joined with New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and 17 other state Attorneys General in a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressing concern over reports the Department of Education is preparing to roll back important protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses and urging her to keep these protections in place. The Attorneys General also called on Secretary DeVos to work collaboratively with them to take action to end the scourge of sexual violence.
Incidents of sexual assault on college campuses are widespread. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, on average, 20.5 percent of college women had experienced sexual assault since entering college while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five women experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes. Moreover, the vast majority of these incidents go unreported. According to a study from the American Association of Universities, reporting rates for some types of assaults were as low as five percent, in part due to survivors’ concerns about coming forward.
Attorney General Chin said, “I join my colleagues in calling on Secretary DeVos to protect survivors of campus sexual assault, period. As a career prosecutor, I do not believe this should be a difficult decision for the Secretary to make. Listen to the students, respect them, and protect them.”
The Department of Education’s current guidance was first issued in 2011 and later clarified in 2014. The guidance instructs colleges on how they must address sexual assault incidents under Title IX. These steps include appointing a Title IX coordinator, requiring mandatory reporting by responsible school officials, and implementing procedures for handling investigations and hearings.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Title IX tracker, as of July 9, 2017 there have been 408 investigations of colleges for their handling of reports of sexual violence. 64 of those have been resolved and 344 remain open.
Of particular concern to the Attorneys General were the comments from Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson, who claimed that 90 percent of campus sexual assault allegations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
Attorney General Chin added in response to the Assistant Secretary’s comments, “I’ve been a prosecutor for more than 15 years. This kind of talk is wrong. It’s degrading. It’s insulting to victims. And it’s dangerous.”
The letter reaffirmed the Attorneys Generals’ commitment to working collaboratively with Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to address the problem of sexual assault, including suggesting the Secretary engage with a bipartisan group of Attorneys General and other stakeholders to discuss collaboration.
In addition to Attorney General Chin, Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro, and New Mexico Attorney General Balderas, Attorneys General from the following 17 states signed on to the letter to Secretary DeVos are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
A copy of the letter is below.
# # #
For more information, contact:
Joshua A. Wisch
Special Assistant to the Attorney General
Twitter: @ATGHIgov

 

 

JOSH SHAPIRO ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Honorable Elisabeth DeVos Secretary
United States Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

July 19, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL

We are writing to express our serious concern over reports that your office is preparing to roll back important protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.

As Attorneys General, we see the impact campus sexual assault has on survivors, educational institutions, and our communities. Incidents of sexual assault on colleges and universities are widespread: the American Association of Universities (AAU) has found that 23 percent of female undergraduates were the victims of sexual assault or sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of force, or incapacitation.1 The federal government’s own studies have reached similar conclusions: the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, on average, 20.5% of college women had experienced sexual assault since entering college2 while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five of women experienced sexual assault in her lifetime.3 Moreover, the vast majority of these incidents go unreported. In fact, the AAU study concluded that reporting rates for some types of assaults were as low as 5 percent, in part due to survivors’ concerns about coming forward.

Thanks to the tireless work of survivors and advocates, our nation is beginning to understand the full scope of this epidemic. The Department of Education’s current guidance reaffirms the obligation of colleges and universities to protect survivors of sexual assault.

1 AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (2015), https://www.aau.edu/key-issues/aau-climate-survey-sexual-assault-and-sexual-misconduct-2015.

2 Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, Final Technical Report, Appx. E, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/App_E_Sex-Assault-Rape-Battery.pdf.

3 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf.

The Honorable Elisabeth DeVos July 19, 2017 Page 2 of 4

Among other provisions, the guidance reaffirms that Title IX requires institutions to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in investigating allegations of sexual harassment or domestic violence. While we recognize that there is a great deal more that can be done to protect students and agree on the importance of ensuring that investigations are conducted fairly, a rushed, poorly-considered effort to roll back current policies sends precisely the wrong message to all students. Yet there is every indication that is exactly the approach your Department is taking.

In particular, we were deeply troubled by the comments attributed to Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson, who claimed that ninety percent of campus sexual assault allegations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right’.” While we appreciate that Ms. Jackson has issued an apology, her comments communicate to survivors of campus sexual assault that the Department does not take their concerns seriously and that it is not committed to continuing its current efforts to combat this epidemic on our college campuses. Coming on the heels of news that she has directed the Office for Civil Rights to reduce its efforts to identify systematic problems in conducting investigations, we have serious concerns as to whether Ms. Jackson can be entrusted to oversee a fair, thorough process in evaluating the Department’s policies in this area.

Despite our concerns, we are committed to working collaboratively with your Department to address the problem of sexual assault on America’s college campuses. But any effort in this area must be deliberate and allow for meaningful input from all stakeholders, and it must focus on the ultimate goal of ensuring that all students are protected from discrimination, including sexual harassment, assault, stalking and domestic violence, under Title IX. To that end, we urge you to directly engage with a broad, representative group of stakeholders, including survivors, victims’ rights advocates, law enforcement, and a bipartisan group of Attorneys General from around the country, so we can take action together to end the scourge of sexual violence on our college and university campuses. Furthermore, we urge you to continue to implement and uphold these important civil rights protections so that all students are able to learn in a safe environment free from violence and discrimination.

response.

We stand ready to partner with you in this effort and look forward to your Sincerely,

JOSH SHAPIRO HECTOR BALDERAS Pennsylvania Attorney General Attorney General of New Mexico

XAVIER BECERRA California Attorney General

MATTHEW DENN Delaware Attorney General

DOUGLAS S. CHIN Hawaii Attorney General

TOM MILLER
Iowa Attorney General

JANET T. MILLS Maine Attorney General

MAURA HEALEY Massachusetts Attorney General

ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN New York Attorney General

The Honorable Elisabeth DeVos July 19, 2017 Page 3 of 4

GEORGE JEPSEN Connecticut Attorney General

KARL A. RACINE Attorney General for the District of Columbia

LISA MADIGAN Illinois Attorney General

ANDY BESHEAR Kentucky Attorney General

BRIAN E. FROSH Maryland Attorney General

LORI SWANSON Minnesota Attorney General

JOSH STEIN
Attorney General of North Carolina

ELLEN F. ROSENBLUM Oregon Attorney General

T.J. DONOVAN
Vermont Attorney General

The Honorable Elisabeth DeVos July 19, 2017 Page 4 of 4

PETER F. KILMARTIN Rhode Island Attorney General

MARK R. HERRING Virginia Attorney General

 

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