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Guidance from the Departments of Ed & Justice Will Enforce Education Rights of Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (DOJ) released a joint guidance letter reminding juvenile justice residential facilities of their obligations under Title IX [PDF] and other civil rights laws to provide equal access to quality educational opportunities for confined youth.

The guidance makes it clear that under Title IX, all facilities that receive federal funds must offer equal educational opportunities without regard to sex. That means youth detention centers must make sure girls have equal access to career and technical programs and that facilities cannot rely on gender stereotypes when determining what opportunities to make available (e.g., automotive repair classes only for boys and cosmetology only for girls). The guidance also says that under Title IX, facilities must protect committed youth from sexual harassment and violence regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or conformity with sex stereotypes. Read more »

DOJ Reaches Agreement with Missoula on Improving Handling of Sexual Assault Cases, But Work isn’t Over Yet

Another step has been taken towards making college campuses and their surrounding areas safer for students. You did not misread that— we are making progress in the fight against sexual assault. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division recently announced the last of three agreements with Missoula, Montana stakeholders regarding improving the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of sexual assault and harassment. Though a lot of work remains to be done to combat the prevalence of sexual assault, these three agreements signal some progress in addressing complaints of assault. The DOJ’s agreement with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office comes one year after similar agreements were reached with the University of Montana at Missoula and the Missoula Police Department.

The County Attorney’s Office’s agreement is the necessary third leg of reform that Missoula has been expecting since investigations into how it addresses sexual assault began in May 2012. While the first two agreements focused on things like how sexual assault is reported on campus and how investigations into allegations of sexual assault are conducted, the reforms in the newest agreement focus on how sexual assault is brought to court. Some of the changes include meeting with survivors and their investigators before deciding whether to bring charges and keeping survivors informed of the status of their cases. While many of the changes are common sense, we’re just happy that they will be standard practice from here on out. Read more »

Principal's Office or Police Station: New Guidance on School Discipline

With the proliferation of “zero tolerance” policies and the increased presence of law enforcement in schools, far too many students are suspended, expelled, or arrested for minor offenses and misbehavior. These policies are pushing students — mostly students of color and students with disabilities — out of school. Read more »

“He sees you when you’re sleeping”—Does Santa use stalker apps?

Having a smartphone with GPS is great, right? We can map directions, find the best places to eat in the area, and have a car come pick us up wherever we are. But it can also be scary and dangerous:

  • A man in Arizona stalked his wife by tracking her cellphone, and murdered their two children, before shooting himself.
  • A Texas woman packed up her car and drove to a friend’s house after her husband assaulted her, only to have him secretly track her through her phone’s GPS and show up, assault her again, and take the car.
  • Near Seattle, a mechanic tracked his wife’s cellphone, found her at a store with another man, and shot and killed their five children and then himself.

Technology that allows a third party to monitor a smartphone user’s location is frighteningly prevalent. In December 2010, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed that of the 101 top smartphone apps, nearly half (47) disclosed a user’s location to third parties, typically without the user’s consent. Many of these are “stalking apps,” which are used to stalk and harass women. Read more »

DOJ Reaches Consent Decree on Elementary School Sexual Assaults

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Allentown, Pennsylvania School District filed a proposed consent decree to resolve multiple complaints of peer-on-peer sexual assault at Central Elementary School. Specifically, a number of individual plaintiffs alleged that six- and seven-year-old students were sexually assaulted by another student in the boys’ bathroom at Central Elementary School during the 2003-04 school year.

The students alleged violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. Sexual harassment, including sexual assault, is a type of sex discrimination.

DOJ intervened in a private lawsuit filed by student victims against the district, and conducted an investigation into the claims. DOJ found that sexual assaults had occurred on at least five separate occasions; the district was told of each incident immediately after it occurred, but failed to take appropriate action (and in some circumstances took no action) to prevent further assaults from occurring. Read more »

New Guidance for School Diversity Efforts

The benefits of racial integration have been demonstrated time and again. At the National Women’s Law Center, we believe that racial integration is not only essential for equality of opportunity and elimination of stereotypes on the basis of race, but that integration benefits women by undermining powerful gender stereotypes.

Unfortunately, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted last week, “Racial isolation remains far too common in America’s classrooms today and it is increasing. This denies our children the experiences they need to succeed in a global economy, where employers, coworkers, and customers will be increasingly diverse. It also breeds inequity, which is inconsistent with America’s core values.”

Which is why we were excited that on Friday, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education released joint guidance for how K-12 schools, colleges, and universities can voluntarily consider race to achieve diversity and avoid racial isolation. The guidance is meant to clarify three earlier Supreme Court decisions related to diversity in school (Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger). The new guidance nullifies two earlier guidance letters from 2008 that incorrectly described those court decisions and discouraged school districts from making efforts to diversify their student populations. Read more »