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PR: Dept. of Education Sexual Assault Program Falls into Disarray; SAVE Calls on Congress to Take Action

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Contact: Gina Lauterio


Dept. of Education Sexual Assault Program Falls into Disarray; SAVE Calls on Congress to Take Action

WASHINGTON / October 7, 2015 – The Department of Education has long claimed that universities must comply with its campus sexual assault policies or risk loss of federal funding. But in testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, two Department of Education officials recently admitted that its 2011 Dear Colleague Letter is non-binding guidance that does not hold force of law:

This admission portends the necessity of a major overhaul of Department of Education’s sexual assault policies and practices:

  1. The Education Department will need to rewrite existing guidance documents, such as its 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence, to conform to the altered legal status of the Dear Colleague Letter, often referred to as the “DCL.”
  1. The legal validity of settlement agreements with dozens of universities, which were based on the DCL “requirements,” is now called into question.
  1. The Department of Education must decide whether to suspend or terminate ongoing investigations at over 100 universities.

In addition, universities across the nation will need to consider revamping their sexual assault policies, especially in light of the growing number of lawsuits by expelled students alleging the university removed their constitutionally protected due process rights.

In direct violation of legal requirements, the Dear Colleague Letter was published without prior public review and comment. Given the long-standing pattern of improper and unlawful Department of Education actions in this area, SAVE is calling on Congress to assert its full oversight and legislative authorities.

“For over four years, a rogue Department of Education has strong-armed schools with the threat of removing their federal funding,” notes SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “These practices amount to nothing less than illegal bureaucratic extortion.”

The DCL has become a lightning-rod for legal controversy. Last October, 28 Harvard law school faculty members published an open letter expressing “strong objections” to a new Harvard sexual assault policy. Hundreds of editorials have criticized the Dept. of Education letter and resulting campus policies: