‘Tis the season for college visiting. As campuses across America are flooded with high school students this summer, there are some hard-hitting, crucial questions to keep in mind—and they may help to give you better perspective on where you could spend some of the most formative years of your life. Although it might not occur to many prospective students and their parents, one of those questions is how a school responds to reports of sexual harassment and assault. While it’s been in the news a lot lately, campus sexual assault isn’t just a hot topic or fodder for politicians and pundits, but rather a harsh reality for far too many. The more you know about how each school responds to it, the better.
And taking steps to prevent and respond to these acts isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the law. Title IX requires all federally funded schools to have policies and procedures in place to help educate the community about sexual harassment and assault and to promptly investigate reported incidents. Read more »
Today, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a complaint against Georgia’s Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School (WWCHS) and Wilkes County Schools for violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. The complaint alleges that WWCHS is violating Title IX in a number of ways, such as excluding pregnant students from receiving homebound instruction services made available to students with other medical conditions, and refusing to excuse pregnancy-related absences.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s regional Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta, details the discrimination experienced by Mikelia Seals, a WWCHS student who was pregnant during the 2013-2014 school year. Mikelia was seven months pregnant when her doctor told her she needed to go on bed rest because she was at risk of premature delivery. Mikelia and her mother then asked Mikelia’s guidance counselor for homebound instruction. The guidance counselor told Mikelia that WWCHS doesn’t provide homebound instruction services (not true). So Mikelia did the best she could with the work she got from her individual teachers – that is, until the principal told her she would not get any credit for that work or for the semester because she had exceeded the allowable number of unexcused absences. She never had the chance to finish the semester and never received a report card. The new school year starts in a couple of weeks and she is worried that she will not be able to graduate in Spring 2015 as scheduled. She hopes to go to nursing school after she graduates. Read more »
On July 1, 2014, Delaware released a proposed update to its regulations regarding homebound instruction, and although it looks like a small change, it’s an important one, folks. Until now, Delaware’s regulations surrounding homebound instruction barred students with “normal” pregnancies from accessing homebound instruction services. Students with pregnancy complications (or, I suppose, “non-normal” pregnancies, though in my mind I still can’t figure out what “normal" means) were only able to access homebound instruction for six weeks, even though such a limit didn’t apply to any other students using homebound instruction.
Happily, once Delaware understood that their regulations violated Title IX and made it harder for pregnant students to continue their schoolwork, they worked quickly to change their regulations. The National Women’s Law Center brought the problem to the attention of the Delaware Department of Education and advocated that the policy be fixed; the proposed changes are necessary for Delaware to comply with Title IX. Read more »
“There’s no point in hiding. Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”
These are the words of courageous 16-year-old Jada. Jada was drugged and raped at a party of a fellow high school student. She had no recollection of the event, but became aware of it when friends began texting her to ask if she was okay. She then realized that photos and videos of her assault were going viral on social media. As if that wasn’t horrible enough, people started mocking her assault by posting photos, tweets, and videos imitating Jada while she was unconscious, using the hashtag #jadapose.
With incredible bravery, Jada is speaking out and saying she will not hide and that she is angry about what has happened to her. And Jada’s not the only one. Thousands are taking to social media to express their outrage, show support for Jada, and challenge the all-too-common rape culture. With the hashtag #jadacounterpose, people are saying they stand with Jada.
Title IX is 42 years old this week. The law, which forced open the doors to education for women and girls, is well known for its impact in sports. Even though many girls across the country still don’t receive equal opportunities to play sports [PDF], opponents of Title IX say the law has gone far Read more »
1. Title IX, passed 42 years ago today as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, is concise but critical: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Read more »
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 »
Contrary to stereotypes and other negative messages that are so popular with mainstream media, parenthood does not have to be the end of the road for young mamas. Instead, motherhood often motivates and empowers young women to focus on succeeding so they can best provide for themselves and their children. Unfortunately, too often this sense of drive and determination is halted in the face of discrimination and shame. At the National Women’s Law Center, we frequently hear from young moms who face obstacles to staying in school because of their schools’ rigid policies, many of which are illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal civil rights law that bans sex discrimination in education – including pregnancy discrimination.
Moms like Brandi Kostal.
A student at Logan College in St. Louis, Brandi had an emergency C-section towards the end of her spring term. Her school only excused absences for jury duty or military service, and for many classes, missing only a few sessions would qualify her for “attendance failure.” Faced with ruining her academic record and not being able to graduate on time, Brandi returned to classes just 11 days after her emergency C-section. Read more »
Content warning: This piece discusses sexual assault.
When I graduated college last May, it felt ridiculously important to me that I establish myself as capital-A Adult. I moved to a new city, I got a full-time job and an apartment, and I came shockingly close to adopting a cat (adults have cats, right?). I wanted to make it clear that I had grown beyond my college identity.
But that changed this week, when I realized I will always be connected to my alma mater — especially when headlines like these splash across the homepages of popular news outlets:
Tufts University, the school I called home for four years — where I learned what Title IX even is — was recently found to be out of compliance with federal Title IX regulations for handling sexual assault cases on college campuses. And unfortunately, this news surprised very few students and recent alumni.
Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made three key recommendations for reducing sexual assault on college campuses. In too many instances, college and school officials have failed to protect students from sexual harassment and violence or to promptly and effectively address it when it occurs. These recommendations, which the Senators made in a letter to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, incentivize schools to do more to protect survivors, thereby creating an environment where survivors feel safe coming forward. We applaud the Senators for putting forward three concrete recommendations that will make a real difference, not just for survivors, but for all students on college campuses:
1) Streamline Compliance and Enforcement. The Senators call upon the U.S. Department of Education to appoint one individual, reporting directly to the Secretary of Education, who is dedicated to violence prevention in colleges and universities. This person would help to streamline compliance and enforcement efforts of the Clery Act (enforced by the Federal Student Aid Office) and Title IX (enforced by the Office for Civil Rights). Read more »