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Tell DOJ to Abandon its Plan to Establish a Title IX Sex Offender Database

SUCCESS! On August 16, 2018, DOJ Communications Coordinator Sarah Blazucki sent the following message to SAVE: “The SMART Office is not considering a proposal to have students found responsible in campus discipline listed in a sex offender registry or any other database.” [bolded in the original message]


Buried deep in the bureaucracy of the Department of Justice is an office named SMART, which stands for “Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking.” The SMART Office administers grant programs for the registration, notification, and management of sex offenders.

The SMART Office is taking initial steps towards the establishment of a national sex offender database for students found responsible of sexual misconduct. The SMART Office has not issued an official statement whether the information in such a database would be accessible only by officials at other colleges, or be made available to the general public.

Private or public, such a database would be highly problematic. Campus findings of responsibility don’t track legal definitions of sexual assault. Campus findings can be based on nothing more than a student failing to ask, “May I touch your breast?” This is not sexual assault as defined by criminal law.

In addition, campus disciplinary committees have notoriously weak due process protections, leading to countless wrongful determinations of “responsibility.” As a Wall Street Journal editorial noted,

“many universities appoint students as Title IX adjudicators, granting them awesome power before they’re old enough to drink or rent a car. Title IX judges often go through “trauma-informed” training, which teaches that when an accuser’s testimony is inconsistent or contradictory, even about key details, the explanation is likely emotional distress caused by the sexual assault, not dishonesty.”

In 2016 a student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill filed a public records request to obtain the names of students held responsible by a campus “Kangaroo Court.” As a result, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in April, 2018 that UNC-CH must release the names of anyone “who, since January 1, 2007, has been found responsible of rape, sexual assault, or any related or lesser included sexual misconduct.”

The Wall Street Journal criticized the ruling for opening the “door for the Title IX equivalent of a sexual offender registry.”

Editorials Oppose the Proposal

Columnist Ashe Schow wrote, “There are already enough problems with sex offender registrations; add into that the poor training, political agendas, and low standard of evidence used in campus procedures, and you’re looking at a registry filled with students who had consensual sex but for various reasons — spite, jealousy, regret — were accused of sexual assault, and some legitimate perpetrators.”

Wendy McElroy concluded, “The Campus Information Sharing and Response Project may open the door to a sex registry for students who are not charged nor convicted of a criminal offense. It may expand the conduct considered to be a sexual offense far beyond what most people would consider reasonable. Until such fundamental matters are clearly delineated, the project should be suspended.”

Simple Justice warned, “This is a bad idea now, and offers enormous, and entirely unjustifiable, potential for abuse in the future. The time to fix problems is before they happen, even if the government swears it would never, but never, do anything bad with the information it gathers.”

Greg Piper summarized, “To some observers, this sounds like a parallel sex-offender registry for students who were found responsible for sexual misconduct based on a low evidence standard, without an opportunity to meaningfully cross-examine their accusers or witnesses, without knowing the specific charges or evidence against them until late in the adjudication process, by officials who aren’t even following their college’s rules.”

DOJ Wants to Hear From You

On August 1, 2018, SMART issued an announcement that it has established a Campus Information Sharing and Response Project that is described as an effort to explore “how institutions of higher education share, respond and coordinate information to prevent sexual assault perpetration.” According to the announcement, this would include “Policies and practices regarding individuals found responsible and sanctioned for campus sexual misconduct policy violations,” including the “use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.”

The SMART Office is requesting public comments on “whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the SMART Office, including whether the information will have practical utility.”

For the reasons stated above, SAVE believes the answer to this question is, “No.”

No later than August 31, 2018, send your comments to the DOJ. Sharing your own knowledge and experiences, please send your comments to:

Samantha Opong
SMART Office

810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531

Telephone: 202-514–9320