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Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

October 21, 2014 — The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports (New, Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).

The Clery Act, first passed in 1992, requires colleges and universities that receive federal student financial aid to track and publish crime statistics (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Details of Final Rule

Effective July 1, 2015, the act will require higher education institutions to disclose the number of reported crimes that were determined to be unfounded from the past three calendar years and moving forward. Until then, DOE officials encourage schools to follow the changes with "a good faith effort." Institutions that do not follow the changes by July may lose federal financial aid access.

According to the final rule, schools must now describe disciplinary proceedings used for each case, explain why that type of proceeding was used, and include a statement on policy and procedures for the relevant crimes in their annual security reports. In addition, schools must record stalking incidents based on where the perpetrator began the stalking or where the victim became aware of it.

Changes to the Clery Act resulted from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (PL 113-4), which included the creation of a 15-member panel of sexual assault survivors and representatives of colleges, law enforcement and advocacy groups to develop the new regulations. The panel agreed on the new regulations in April and has changed them little since then.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the final rule does not vary much from what DOE officials proposed in June. As announced at that time, DOE added gender identity and national origin bias to the hate crime definition, increased victim confidentiality protections, and mandated that both accuser and accused be allowed to have an attorney or other adviser present during disciplinary proceedings. Previously, schools dictated what type of adviser students could have, although the new rule still allows the institutions to limit advisers' participation in the process.

Reaction

The inclusion of dating violence and stalking in the reporting requirements "is a wonderful step forward," Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women, said. She added, "When we talk about sexual and gender-based violence on campus, we're not often talking about the bogeyman jumping out of the bushes on the college green so this is a much more realistic way to look at these crimes."

SurvJustice Executive Director Laura Dunn, a sexual assault survivor and member of the 15-member panel, said of the changes that permit advisers, "Schools would limit who could be brought in, but in reality there would often be an attorney in the wings helping the accused," which could make the process "distinctly unfair" for the accuser (Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).