Obama Administration’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault Releases Guide for Universities and Colleges in Preventing and Addressing Campus Sexual Misconduct

In early January 2017, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, established under the Obama Administration in 2014, released “Preventing and Addressing Campus Sexual Misconduct: A Guide for University and College Presidents, Chancellors, and Senior Administrators.” The Guide, which is available online (click here), offers insight and practical recommendations in six primary areas—Coordinated Campus and Community Response; Prevention and Education; Policy Development and Implementation; Reporting Options, Advocacy and Support Services; Climate Surveys, Performance Measurement and Evaluation; and Transparency.

Specific recommendations in the Guide include partnering with local groups and agencies to provide trauma-informed services and support to victims, developing memoranda of understanding  with local police departments and rape crisis centers with clear outlines of roles and responsibilities, developing ongoing prevention and education programs with an emphasis on incoming first year students, developing customized programs for target groups including but not limited to student athletes and Greek organizations, implementing a public awareness and bystander intervention campaign to support positive social norms on campus, developing a grievance process that includes investigation procedures, and defining remedies and timelines. The Guide also includes recommendations for encouraging and facilitating sexual misconduct reporting, conducting research-based sexual misconduct surveys to accurately gauge a campus’s needs, and making a concerted effort to be transparent regarding sexual misconduct on campus. The Task Force has cautioned, however, that each institution consider the recommendations in the Guide only after determining the unique needs and characteristics of the institution, its student body, and its surrounding community.

How the Trump administration will approach sexual misconduct on higher education campuses remains to be seen. Media sources have speculated that Trump’s Administration will back away from the Obama Administration’s viewpoint that schools, as well as criminal justice entities, are responsible for protecting students from and responding to sexual violence on campuses.  In the interim, the Guide serves as a good tool for universities and colleges to comply with their obligations under Title IX.

We will continue to monitor the guidance, law and regulations on this topic and keep you apprised of all developments.

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