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Letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan - Call for Swift Implementation of Bill to Combat Sexual Violence On College Campuses

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urging the swift implementation of his recently passed bill, the Campus SaVE Act, which would create uniform reporting standards for incidences of sexual violence on college campuses. In his letter to the Department of Education asking for regular updates on implementation, Senator Casey cited the recent concerns raised by Swarthmore students about the reporting of sexual violence on their campus.

"It's critical that the Department of Education swiftly implement legislation I authored to create uniform reporting standards for sexual violence on college campuses," Senator Casey said. "It's important that colleges across the country and the Department of Education work together to meet the reasonable expectations of students that acts of sexual violence are reported appropriately."

The Campus SaVE Act, which became law as Section 304 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), closes a serious gap in the law by requiring colleges and universities to clearly spell out their policies regarding sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The Campus SaVe Act will also increase awareness and prevention of these acts of violence by requiring transparency of information, prevention programs, assistance for victims and clear institutional judicial proceedings to promote accountability.

The bill amends Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require each institution of higher education participating in a title IV program, except foreign schools, to:

* Include in its annual security report a statement of policy regarding its domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking awareness and prevention programs and the procedures it follows when such an offense occurs.

* Explain in writing students' rights anytime a student reports being a victim of sexual violence, including stalking, dating or domestic violence. This would include a victim's right to notify law enforcement if the victim chooses, to receive help from the school to report the incident, to seek a protective order from a local court, and to change residence, class schedule and travel arrangements as necessary to preserve the victim's safety.

* Explain to students the school's obligation to help enforce those protective orders.

* Start teaching bystander education -- a prevention strategy that focuses on teaching male and female students alike that they can prevent sexual assaults and that they have a responsibility to do so.

* Direct the Secretary of Education to seek the Attorney General's counsel regarding the development, and dissemination to schools, of best practices for preventing and responding to sex offenses and other forms of intimate partner violence.

The full text of Senator Casey's letter can be found below:

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education

Dear Secretary Duncan:

I write today to ask that you provide my office with regular updates about the implementation status of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (Campus SaVE) Act, which was passed as Section 304 of the recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. An update to the Clery Act, Campus SaVE makes critical reforms to how institutions of higher learning respond to incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and empowers young people to avoid or end unhealthy relationships before they become victims.

I understand that your Department has recently begun the negotiated rulemaking process to implement the Campus SaVE Act, and I urge you to move as swiftly as possible to implement these critical reforms. Recent events in Pennsylvania highlight colleges' and universities' ongoing struggles to address sexual violence on campus and meet the needs of their students who become victims. Mia Ferguson and Hope Brinn, two students at Swarthmore College, are alleging that they are victims of sexual misconduct, and have filed a Clery Act complaint with twelve additional students. Ms. Ferguson and Ms. Hope have also filed a Title IX complaint. Although the President of Swarthmore College has recently stated that changes in that college's policies are under way, this situation is indicative of the urgent need to provide our institutions of higher education with better guidance for properly dealing with sexual and domestic violence.

Campus SaVE, when fully implemented, will be an important step in ensuring that colleges have the guidance they need. It will also ensure that young people have access to critical resources and education on domestic and sexual violence.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator


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