Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire
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Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Call on Secretary DeVos to Maintain Protections for Sexual Violence Survivors on College Campuses

Sep 19, 2017
Press Release

(Washington, DC) - Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH), Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA), and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos outlining principles they believe should be included in the Department’s final guidance for campus sexual violence disciplinary proceedings. The letter recognizes the shared goal of creating a  “workable, effective, and fair system” for colleges and universities to address campus sexual violence; affirms that preponderance of evidence is an appropriate standard for campus disciplinary proceedings; urges the Department to provide technical assistance to colleges to implement fair practices in campus disciplinary proceedings; emphasizes the importance of comprehensive sexual violence prevention efforts; and  encourages the Secretary to consult with all stakeholders in campus proceedings, especially survivors of sexual violence.

Kuster, Meehan, and Speier were joined on the letter by Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS).

“Title IX should protect students from discrimination and sexual violence while ensuring all students are afforded due process,” wrote the members. “According to the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, 87 percent of sexual assault survivors do not report their assaults to campus officials. Underreporting of sexual violence is a tragedy and endangers campus communities. The experiences of survivors must be the focus of any conversation about sexual violence on campus to ensure they have faith in, and are treated fairly by, the disciplinary process. Any final rule on Title IX must not have a chilling effect on reporting.”

The full text of the letter is available below and here:

 

September 19, 2017

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

United States Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:

On September 7, 2017 you delivered a major speech at George Mason University announcing the beginning of a “notice and comment” period for the Department of Education’s Title IX guidance to colleges and universities and announced your intention to replace the existing guidance with a “workable, effective, and fair system.” We share your stated goal at the outset of this process. Title IX should protect students from discrimination and sexual violence while ensuring all students are afforded due process.

According to the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, 87 percent of sexual assault survivors do not report their assaults to campus officials. Underreporting of sexual violence is a tragedy and endangers campus communities. The experiences of survivors must be the focus of any conversation about sexual violence on campus to ensure they have faith in, and are treated fairly by, the disciplinary process. Any final rule on Title IX must not have a chilling effect on reporting.

Because attending a college or university is not deemed to be a state-protected right, but rather a privilege, Republican and Democratic Administrations have maintained that preponderance of evidence is the proper evidentiary standard for campus disciplinary proceedings. Preponderance of evidence is used in civil legal proceedings where there is similarly no threat to an individual’s liberty. This standard balances the rights of both parties involved in the disciplinary process by recognizing that each has an equal stake in the outcome of a case. We urge you to maintain preponderance of evidence as the evidentiary standard in all campus sexual violence proceedings.

Survivors of sexual violence should have the option to engage law enforcement and file criminal charges against their attacker; however, this does not replace the obligation of colleges and universities to remedy sexual misconduct under Title IX. Similarly, in recognition of a survivor’s interest in controlling their response to an alleged incident, colleges and universities should respect a survivor’s choice to withdraw from a disciplinary proceeding without prejudice. Every campus should implement fair disciplinary proceedings and provide trauma-informed support for both survivors and the accused. The Department of Education must provide technical assistance to colleges and universities to ensure schools successfully implement fair practices on campus.

As identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their Sexual Violence on Campus: Strategies for Prevention report, comprehensive sexual violence prevention makes campuses safer. We urge you to encourage colleges and universities to implement comprehensive prevention programs that are developmentally appropriate for students, administered by well-trained staff using a variety of teaching methods, engage with all students over the course of the school year, incorporate evidence-based methods, and are tailored to the needs of each campus. 

Students, families, and administrators are uniquely positioned to understand what is happening on campuses today. During your review of Title IX, we encourage you to consult with all parties involved in these campus proceedings – especially survivors. Colleges and universities, thanks to the advocacy of survivors and with guidance from the federal government, have made great strides addressing cases of sexual violence since the Dear Colleague Letter was released in 2011. We hope your review is transparent and builds upon this hard-won progress.

 

Sincerely,

 

_____________________              _____________________                _____________________

Ann McLane Kuster                          Patrick Meehan                                     Jackie Speier

Member of Congress                        Member of Congress                           Member of Congress

 

 

____________________________                                      _______________________________

Susan Davis                                                                                   Ted Poe

Member of Congress                                                                  Member of Congress

 

 

____________________________                                      _______________________________

Pramila Jayapal                                                                           Tom Reed

Member of Congress                                                                  Member of Congress

 

 

____________________________                                      _______________________________

Debbie Dingell                                                                            Carlos Curbelo

Member of Congress                                                                 Member of Congress

 

 

____________________________                                                                                                   

Lynn Jenkins                                                                          

Member of Congress                         

 

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