WSF and ATIXA Respond to Opposition of Department of Education’s Guidance on Sexual Violence

The Women’s Sports Foundation and the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), along with 57 other influential groups and individuals from around the country, are rallying to support the Department of Education’s (DOE) recent Guidance outlined in a “Dear Colleague Letter,” (DCL), which explains schools’ responsibilities for addressing campus sexual violence under Title IX. This rally for continued support comes after opposition groups criticized the DOE in response to the agency’s issuance of new advisory guidelines last April.

On February 7, 2012 a six-page letter was sent to Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, in support of the current Guidance which advances the inherent societal good that gender equity represents. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, Brett A. Sokolow, Executive Director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, and Wendy Murphy, Adjunct Professor, New England Law|Boston and ATIXA Board Member were among those who co-authored the letter. The letter received 59 signatories of influential groups (listed below) and individuals who agree that a preponderance standard is appropriate and fair because it presumes that all students are equally credible unless and until an investigation determines otherwise.

The letter also supports other aspects of the DCL such as the requirement that a school’s response to a reported sexual assault be “prompt”, which means full resolution no more than 60 days after the incident is reported. This is an especially important consideration in campus sexual assault cases because repeat offenders commit more than 90% of campus sex offenses. Protection of students and effective redress of claims for individual victims is not possible without a swift response. Additionally, the DCL clarified that student-athletes accused of sexual assaults must be subject to the same standards and disciplinary rules as any other student.

Department of Education's Sexual Assault Guidelines Background
The controversy ensued after the Office for Civil Liberties (OCR) issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) in April of 2011, in which it clarified schools’ responsibilities for addressing campus sexual violence under Title IX. The DCL signaled OCR’s strong commitment to increased enforcement of Title IX as a prohibition against discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment and sexual assault. Key provisions include clarity on the requirement that schools apply a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in resolving sexual assault complaints on campus, and that schools treat sexual violence as a violation of a student’s civil rights under Title IX.

Opposition voices have complained that the preponderance standard is unfair to student assailants even though the standard has been a settled principle for many years, and over 80% of schools already used the preponderance standard long before the new DCL was issued. Proof by a preponderance of evidence enables schools to rule in favor of any student who is more credible. This standard is fair because it avoids the presumption, inherent in a higher standard of proof, that the word of a victim should always be presumed less weighty than the word of an offender’s denial.

Group Signatories
A Men’s Project
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Alliance of Women Coaches
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC)
CA NOW Athletic Equity Committee
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Feminist Majority Foundation
Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, Case Western Reserve University
Guerrilla Girls On Tour
Herb Dempsey*
Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport
Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault
MensWork: eliminating violence against women, inc.
Myra Sadker Foundation
National Association for Multicultural Education
National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators
National Behavior Intervention Team Association
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Coalition Against Violent Athletes
National Consortium for Academics and Sports
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Education Association
National Organization for Men Against Sexism
National Organization for Women Foundation
Ohio National Organization for Women
Project Single Moms Worldwide, Inc.
Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE)
School and College Organization for Prevention Educators
Security On Campus, Inc.
Sports Management Resources
St. Cloud State Women’s Center
Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) – Board
Title IX Action Network
University of Southern Maine - Campus Violence Project
Veronica I. Arreola*
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
Voices, Inc.
Voices of Men
Women's Center of Jacksonville, Inc.
Women's Law Project
Women's Research & Education Institute
Women's Resource Center - University of the Pacific

* - Individual Sign-ons

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Published Feb 8, 2012
By Women's Sports Foundation


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