Washington, D.C. – Today, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault. The new guidance, announced at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, makes clear the legal obligations under Title IX of any school, college or university receiving federal funds to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence. The guidance also provides practical examples to aid educators in ensuring the safety of their students.
Under Title IX – a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities – discrimination can include sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion. The guidance, the first specifically advising schools, colleges and universities that their responsibilities under Title IX include protecting students from sexual violence, also details enforcement strategies that schools and the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may use to end sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects.
"Today we are strengthening our response to sexual assault in schools and on college campuses," said Vice President Biden. "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."
"Every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence but the facts suggest otherwise," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Our first goal is prevention through education. Information is always the best way to combat sexual violence. Our larger goal is to raise awareness to an issue that should have no place in society and especially in our schools," Duncan continued.
"Schools must provide an environment where all students have an equal opportunity to learn," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali. "Schools are often in the best position to prevent sexual violence and to respond to it promptly and effectively if it occurs. OCR is already working with schools to help them in their fight against the harmful effects of sexual violence by providing technical assistance and seeking remedies designed to stop such conduct, prevent its recurrence, and remediate its impact."
For over 20 years, Vice President Biden has led the fight to combat violence against women. As the author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, then-Senator Biden exposed high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking experienced by women every day in this country – redefining the way domestic violence is handled through changes in law enforcement, improvements in the criminal justice system and the establishment of shelters and services for victims. As Vice President, he has continued the cause, creating unprecedented coordination and cooperation across the federal government to combat violence against women.
Yet in spite of the significant progress made since the passage of VAWA, the threat of violence and abuse continues for a new generation of women. Young women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while 1 in 5 will be a victim of sexual assault during college. Today, with Secretary Duncan, the Vice President highlighted the Administration's commitment to raising awareness and promoting policies to prevent sexual violence against women of all ages.
For more information about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the anti-discrimination statutes that it enforces, please visit their website at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/aboutocr.html.