Chicago Attorney General Lisa Madigan today condemned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' decision to replace guidance that ensured college campuses around the country respond to allegations of sexual violence. Madigan said DeVos' decision abandons survivors and causes confusion for students and schools nationwide.
The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights' current guidance instructs colleges on how to respond to and address sexual assault incidents under Title IX. The guidance requires the appointment of a Title IX coordinator, mandatory reporting by responsible school officials and the implementation of procedures for handling investigations and hearings.
While Secretary DeVos' announcement will impact students and schools around the country, Madigan said the law she initiated in 2015, the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, already ensures that Illinois schools must continue to respond adequately to sexual violence complaints and provide a fair process to address those complaints.
"The Secretary of Education is undermining efforts of schools around the country that have worked to improve their response to incidents of sexual violence on campus," Madigan said. "In our state, the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act ensures that anyone who experiences sexual assault is heard and supported."
Madigan's Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act requires all Illinois colleges and universities to:
Develop a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence policy, including detailed incident reporting options and university response guidelines;
Notify student survivors about their rights, including their right to confidentiality, and the protections the university can provide to ensure the student's health and safety, such as obtaining an order of protection, changing class schedules or campus housing, and the availability of medical and counseling services;
Provide a confidential advisor to survivors to help them understand their options and rights, including the options to report the sexual assault and to seek medical and legal assistance;
Adopt a fair and balanced process for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence;
Train students and campus employees to prevent sexual violence and improve awareness and responsiveness to allegations of sexual violence;
Allow students to report information electronically, confidentially or anonymously ( in addition to other methods offered by the college or university );
Allow a third party or bystander to report an incident; and
Respond to a report submitted electronically within 12 hours.
To raise awareness about the law's requirements, Madigan's office has made presentations around the state to campus administrators and staff, students, campus security and law enforcement, and advocates who may serve as confidential advisors. Additionally, Madigan's office has prepared several resources related to the law, which can be found here.
Madigan's office also has published a template to assist colleges and universities as they prepare to submit a first annual report to Madigan's office by November 1, 2017. The report must include the school's comprehensive policy as well as data and information concerning the trainings, prevention programs, reports and complaint resolution outcomes for the 2016 calendar year.
In July, Madigan and 19 other attorneys general sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her not to roll back important protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.
Incidents of sexual assault on college campuses are widespread. The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, on average, 20.5 percent of college women had experienced sexual assault since entering college. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five women experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes. Moreover, the vast majority of these incidents go unreported. According to a study from the American Association of Universities, reporting rates for some types of assaults were as low as five percent.