No-Contact Orders Issued by Colleges Often Ignored
The orders can be difficult to create and enforce while respecting student rights.
Colleges and universities have struggled to follow through on a crucial part of sexual assault investigations that is essential to protecting potential victims.
No contact orders are a temporary solution issued by colleges to people involved in sexual assault investigations to protect potential victims. The orders are designed to minimize contact between the accuser and accused in a method similar to restraining orders. Oftentimes no contact orders mean the accused student and the accuser can’t be in the same areas or buildings on campus.
If schools fail to protect an accuser from harassment, it opens the institution up to potential Title IX violations. Under Title IX, schools must take immediate action to protect potential victims from further sexual discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence.
In at least one case, at Skidmore College, the school’s alleged failure to enforce no-contact orders contributed to an investigation into the school by the Office for Civil Rights.
One way colleges can help ensure their no contact orders are followed is to make the details of the orders specific and clearly lay out the punishment for violating those rules. A lawyer gave examples of good no-contact orders that included giving the accused student specific hours he or she can enter certain buildings and specifying entrances an accused student can use if his or her accuser has classes in the same place.
Another method schools can use to ensure compliance with no-contact orders is taking violations into account when determining the punishment for students found guilty in the sexual assault investigation. Although timely punishments are likely more effective, students may be less likely to ignore orders if they know violations will be considered at the conclusion of investigations. Make this clear to the students involved early on.
Even after making clear rules, however, some schools struggle enforcing them without violating the accused student’s rights. “In terms of what the solution [to following no-contact orders] is, that’s challenging, I will acknowledge that,” S. Daniel Carter, who spoke about Title IX at Campus Safety’s National Forum, told the Huffington Post.