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McCaskill, Gillibrand Lead Bipartisan Letter for New McCaskill, - KOAM TV 7

McCaskill, Gillibrand Lead Bipartisan Letter for New McCaskill, Gillibrand Lead Bipartisan Letter for New

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today released a bipartisan letter signed by 10 of their colleagues to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, & Education leaders calling for new federal funding to investigate and enforce sexual assault laws at colleges and universities.
 
“After being victimized by a crime as deeply traumatic and personal as a sexual assault, no young man or woman should be left to fend for themselves,” said McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes. “I fear that, like the U.S. military, we’re going to find systemic problems on our college campuses—including very low reporting due to lack of protections and resources. Our schools must provide the highest level of responsiveness to ensure that victims are protected and empowered, and that perpetrators don’t get a free pass.”
 
“When our young people go on to higher education, it should be an opportunity to learn, grow, pursue their dreams and prepare for their future careers,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But for one in five young women on campuses across America, the college experience becomes their worst nightmare, as victims of sexual assault. America’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. But it is simply unacceptable that they become havens for rape and sexual assault. It is time to take this crisis head on and end the scourge of sexual assault on our college campuses, hold offenders accountable, and keep our students safe.”
 
According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012. This puts college women at a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college bound peers.
 
Laws covering sexual assault on campus are handled by the U.S. Department of Education, under Title IX and the Jeane Clery Act, which calls for colleges and universities to report information on crime on and around campuses, and provide victims with select rights and resources.  
 
Each year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles more than 10,000 complaints against schools over violations of Title IX, but has just half the staff it did in 1980, when OCR received a third of the amount of complaints as today. Not one position of OCR’s staff is dedicated exclusively to handling Title IX sexual violence complaints.
 
Worsening the problem, the Clery Compliance Team has less than a dozen staff members to enforce the law at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the country, rendering the team unable to investigate the 63 percent of schools that failed to report crime statistics in the manner required by the Clery Act. Nearly one-third of the campus sexual assault policies at 299 colleges surveyed do not fully comply with the Clery Act. From 2000 to 2013, Clery Act enforcement employees were only able to investigate and collect enough data to impose fines on just 21 colleges or universities.
 
To begin to get a handle on the growing crisis on campus sexual assault, Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand are working to equip the right federal agencies with the resources needed to create real accountability.
 
Also joining the letter are Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
 
The Senators’ complete letter is below:
 
 
The Honorable Tom Harkin                                       
Chairman                                                                                                                    
Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,                                           
Health and Human Services, & Education
United States Senate                                                                                                 
Washington, D.C. 20510
 
The Honorable Jerry Moran
Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, & Education
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
 
Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Moran,
 
We are writing to urge you to support additional funding for the compliance and enforcement of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) regarding sexual assault on college campuses.
 
Adequate investigation, resolution and enforcement for violations of the Clery Act and Title IX have been weak for many reasons, including a lack of trained staff dedicated to the problem of addressing the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.  In addition, new regulations from last year’s Violence Against Women Act reauthorization regarding monitoring and reporting under the Clery Act will be put into effect later this year and will require additional staff and training to handle the expected increased workload.
 
Therefore, we respectfully request that you provide $2 million to employ thirteen additional staff specifically trained and focused on investigating sexual assault cases as part of the Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division of the U.S. Department of Education.  In addition, we request at least $102 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 for the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the amount requested by the President, plus $5.046 million for OCR to hire staff exclusively dedicated to investigation and enforcement of Title IX provisions regarding sexual violence.
 
Campus sexual violence is a pervasive and deeply troubling problem that is plaguing colleges and universities across the United States. According to a 2007 campus sexual assault study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly one in five women in college and six percent of men in college will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault in the course of their undergraduate careers. A report from the National Institute of Justice revealed that college women are at higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college-bound peers. Campus sexual violence is a crime that threatens students’ physical and emotional health and undermines students’ right to a safe, non-hostile educational environment.
 
The U.S. Department of Education is charged with regulating institutions of higher education to ensure compliance with Federal laws dealing with campus sexual assault, namely, Title IX and the Clery Act. Within the U.S. Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Title IX and the Compliance Division of the Office of Federal Student Aid handles complaints against schools regarding violations of the Clery Act. OCR receives over 10,000 complaints each year regarding the broad range of Federal civil rights laws that OCR enforces. However, due to budget constraints, OCR is currently operating with less than half the staff the office had in 1980, when OCR received a third as many complaints. In addition, not one of OCR’s staff is dedicated exclusively to handling Title IX sexual violence complaints. The Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division has less than a dozen staff members who are responsible for enforcement of the Clery Act at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the United States.
 
Given the extent of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, there is a clear need for more  trained staff to enforce the laws currently on the books. In addition, the issuance of new Clery Act regulations later this year will only increase the demand on the U.S. Department of Education to tackle the problem of campus sexual assault. Therefore, we respectfully request sufficient funding to employ additional staff and institute added training for the Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division and at the Office for Civil Rights, exclusively dedicated to compliance and enforcement with federal regulations surrounding campus sexual violence.
 
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.
 
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