The Secretary of Education has recently announced new changes to Title IX, a set of standards originally instituted to protect students from sexual assault and harassment in schools. In spite of many schools’ protestations that they won’t be able to institute the changes in time, while also changing school operations to address contagion risks, the new standards are set to take effect on August 14th.
The Latest Changes to Title IX Discourage Sexual Assault Reporting
Advocacy groups for sexual assault survivors, and for women’s equal access to education, object to the latest changes to Title IX for two excellent reasons.
Firstly, schools regulated under Title IX can now institute a higher burden of proof before taking action against a student accused of sexual assault. Previously, the standard was a preponderance of evidence. In other words, if the evidence supported the accuser more than the accused, even a little bit, that was enough. Under the new standard of clear and convincing evidence, the evidence must make it appear “highly probable” that the accusation is accurate.
Secondly, the new standards require a live cross-examination of the accuser. This can be very re-traumatizing for a survivor of sexual violence, in that it involves forcing them to relive the incident while having their experience professionally disputed and their own conduct called into question.
In addition to allowing more accused sexual predators to avoid consequences, the changes will make it even more intimidating that it already is for survivors to come forward at all. Many may decide that pursuing justice will be too painful or futile, allowing their attackers to continue their behavior without so much as a formal accusation against them.
Schools Without Federal Funding Are Excluded from Both Old and New Standards
Title IX in its new form applies to all schools, from kindergarten to graduate school, that receive federal funding. However, private schools that do not receive any federal funding are not required to adhere to these standards, or any specific standards at all, for protecting students from sexual assault and harassment.
Whereas students in public and publicly-subsidized schools are now facing a backslide in their protections against sexual violence and discrimination, many private school students are already — and still — living without any Title IX protections at all.
Private Schools Are Still Responsible for Student Safety
Although not bound by Title IX, private schools do have a general obligation to take all reasonable measures to protect people from foreseeable harm, just like any other organization. Sexual violence on and around campuses is, sadly, more than foreseeable. For every incident that reaches the point of legal proceedings, there are almost always multiple past incidents that the administration is, or should be, aware of.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted while attending a private school, you do have recourse available to you under civil law, whether your school is willing to take action against your attacker or not. Call The Stoddard Firm any time to learn about your options and how we can help.