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July 19, 2017

AG Jepsen, State AGs Urge Continued Protections for Campus Sexual Assault Victims

Attorney General George Jepsen has joined with 19 other attorneys general in a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to express concerns over reports that the federal Department of Education intends to roll back policies designed to protect victims of sexual assault on college and university campuses.
The attorneys general urged Secretary DeVos to keep in place guidance provided under Title IX that instructs colleges on how they must address sexual assault incidents. The attorneys general also called on Secretary DeVos to work collaboratively with them to take action to end the scourge of sexual violence on college campuses.
The attorneys general referenced comments made by an administration official that they said communicated to survivors of campus sexual assault that the Department of Education does not take victims' concerns seriously and that the department is not committed to continuing current efforts to address the widespread problem of sexual assault on college campuses.
"To step back protections for victims at this time would not only further injure students who have already suffered significant trauma, it would also set back efforts to address the very serious problems of sexual assault and sexual violence on college campuses," said Attorney General Jepsen. "State attorneys general are ready to be part of the solution, but weakening Title IX protections should not be part of the conversation."
The Department of Education’s current guidance was first issued in 2011 and later clarified in 2014. The guidance advises colleges and universities on appointing a Title IX coordinator, requiring mandatory reporting by responsible school officials and implementing procedures for handling investigations and hearings.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Title IX tracker, as of July 9, 2017 there have been 408 investigations of colleges for their handling of reports of sexual violence – 64 of those have been resolved and 344 remain open.
In its 2015 survey, the American Association of Universities found that 23 percent of female undergraduates were the victims of sexual assault or sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of force or incapacitation. The vast majority of these incidents go unreported, in part due to victims' concerns about coming forward.
In addition to Connecticut, and led by Pennsylvania and New Mexico, other attorneys general joining today's letter include California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
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