Schools Face More Heat On Sexual Assaults On Campus

Posted On Thursday, January 23, 2014

As we’ve written before, colleges and university are facing increasing scrutiny from federal authorities over their handling of sexual harassment and sexual assaults on campus.  Last year’s amendments to the Violence Against Women Act brought a slew of new reporting and education requirements tied to continued federal funding.

Now President Obama is upping the ante.

On Wednesday, Obama created a task force of senior administration officials to coordinate federal efforts to stop sexual assaults on campus.  The task force will have 90 days to come up with best practices for colleges and universities and to report on whether schools are complying with their existing legal obligations.  The task force is filled with significant administration players, including Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: the Obama Administration has made stopping sexual assaults on campus a top priority.  Schools need to adjust accordingly, by making sure their policies are up to date and in compliance with federal law and by ensuring that their students and employees know how to handle sexual assaults.

“Universities and colleges want to do the right thing concerning sexual assaults on campus, but frequently get tripped up by concerns of confidentiality or a lack of internal communication,” said Kevin Raphael, a partner at Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP, who used to be a sex-crimes prosecutor and now advises schools and employers on how to handle sexual misconduct on campus and in the workplace.  “It is important to make sure everyone on campus is on the same page and knows how to respond and to whom to report.  Training and educating employees, staff, and students is more important than ever to create the right culture on campus.”