U.S. Department of Education provides guidance to schools on sexual violence on campus

Today, Utah educators received guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on how to protect students from sexual harassment and sexual violence. All public schools and colleges in the nation received the 19-page Dear Colleague Letter outlining their obligations under the law in these situations.

The federal guidance released today outlines the rights students have under the Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit sexual harassment, including sexual violence. It also outlines the obligations schools have to act immediately to stop sexual violence or harassment on campus, to stop future acts, and to investigate alleged acts in addition to any criminal investigations. It includes proactive efforts schools can take to prevent sexual violence and educate their staff and students, plus examples of remedies schools may use to respond to incidents of sexual violence.

Included along with the Dear Colleague Letter are these startling statistics from OCR:

Acts of sexual violence are vastly under-reported.1  Yet, data show that our nation’s young students suffer from acts of sexual violence early and the likelihood that they will be assaulted by the time they graduate is significant. For example:

  • Recent data shows nearly 4,000 reported incidents of sexual battery and over 800 reported rapes and attempted rapes occurring in our nation’s public high schools.2 Indeed, by the time girls graduate from high school, more than one in ten will have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in or out of school.3
  • When young women get to college, nearly 20% of them will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault, as will about 6% of undergraduate men.4

Victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer academically and from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to contemplate suicide.5

A copy of the Dear Colleague Letter is available here. Click here for the fact sheet on sexual violence in schools from OCR. And click here for more information about students’ rights under Title IX.

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