Title IX already obligates schools in K-12 to respond to accusations of sexual assault, but reports indicate that those responses have been consistently failing victims, especially girls of color.
On Monday, the Obama administration released a document explaining how schools can form better sexual misconduct policies. The document was created by The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, a group assembled in 2014 to address campus rape. According to BuzzFeed, nothing in this document is new: It’s essentially just reminding schools that these regulations exist.
Brooklyn-based attorney Carrie Goldberg frequently represents teen sexual assault victims. She told BuzzFeed News that some of the young girls of color she’s represented were sent home after reporting their assault or forced to transfer schools:
“In my cases, I have seen how a child’s education is disrupted by sexual violence, implicit biases, and trauma,” Goldberg said. “With the free online training modules accompanying the guide, there is no excuse — utterly no excuse — for a school to ever punish the victim for in-school sexual violence – as happened in six of my firm’s cases.”
The issue at most K-12 schools seems to be a lack of training amongst school administrators. Adele Kimmel, a senior attorney at Public Justice, who works frequently with Title IX issues in K-12, says, “My experience is that schools often respond to harassment in ways that further traumatize the victims... So training and education in trauma sensitivity would greatly improve the educational environment for students.”
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights currently has 106 investigations open at 97 different schools over administration’s response to accusations of sexual violence, and 350 federal investigations on whether or not disciplinary actions in schools were more extreme towards girls of color due to administrator’s racial bias. The additional prompting from the White House is very much needed, but as Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, says, “We were hoping the wake-up call would’ve already happened.”