The U.S. Department of Education has released comprehensive guidance for all schools, colleges and universities to better understand their obligations in issues of sexual assault on campus, and respond effectively to such cases.
On Monday, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, U.S. Vice-president Joe Biden and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan released a set of guidelines that clearly outline the legal obligations of any educational institute under Title IX - a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities.
Discrimination in this context includes sexual violence such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion, and the directive issued explicitly states for the first time that every school is bound under Title IX to protect its students from such violence.
A letter to schools in this regard from the Office of the Assistant Secretary clearly states that should schools know or have sufficient reason to know of any student-on-student sexual assault, Title IX requires it to take immediate action. In fact, the school's Title IX investigation is different from any law enforcement investigation, and the latter does not relieve the school of its independent Title IX obligation to investigate the conduct.
The same letter also specifies enforcement strategies for schools to eradicate such incidence from campus, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects.
A Department of Education report prepared for the National Institute of Justice highlights the troubling fact that about 20 per cent women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college. The report also found that approximately 6.1 per cent of males were victims of completed or attempted sexual assault during college.
Covert forms of sexual offensive also exist even in the best of institutions; a recent viral email circulated by someone who claimed to be a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Southern California created national outrage by its explicit nature and irreverent description of how to target women as sexual conquests.
Vice President Biden, who as Senator had authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, explained the rationale behind the current initiative saying, Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn. That's why we're taking new steps to help our nation's schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.