Making Sense of Affirmative Consent, Title IX, VAWA and Clery

States and the federal government have recently enacted laws to address how colleges handle sexual assault claims. Here’s the latest on some of the new laws, as well as best practices your campus should adopt.

Universities and colleges have numerous obligations when it comes to addressing sexual violence on campus. The Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) promotes equal opportunity by providing that no person may be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex under any educational program or activity. Schools have an obligation under Title IX to prevent sexual harassment in higher education.

Title IX sets forth detailed requirements for a school’s response to a report of sexual violence, dating/domestic violence and stalking, including investigation. Recourse for students pursuant to Title IX includes filing a civil lawsuit and/or filing a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The primary purpose of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics (“Clery Act”) was to promote transparency and awareness of campus crime. Like Title IX, the Clery Act applies to all schools that receive federal financial assistance.

Under the Clery Act, schools must publish an annual security report, maintain a public crime log, disclose crime statistics for incidents that take place on or near campus, issue timely warnings about crimes that pose a serious or ongoing threat to students and employees, devise an emergency response and evacuation plan, compile and publish an annual fire safety report, enact policies and procedures to handle reports of missing students and publish policies and procedures for prevention of sexual violence and response to reports of sexual violence.

RELATED: Training Campus Police to Be Sexual Assault Victim Advocates

On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013, which intended to update, clarify and improve the Clery Act. Although there is no private right of enforcement under the Clery Act, the Education Department can fine schools for Clery violations.

In addition to the Title IX and the Clery Act, institutions of higher education must comply with state laws on campus sexual violence in their jurisdiction. Many state laws provide supplementary or overlapping requirements for reporting, investigation and disciplinary hearings, in particular regarding the due process rights for accused students who face suspension or expulsion.

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