The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 14, 2014

Survey shows colleges flouting sexual assault rules

Colleges nationwide are flouting federal rules for prevention, response and investigation of campus sexual assaults, according to a survey by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

More than 40 percent of 440 colleges and universities surveyed by McCaskill haven't investigated a sexual assault in the past five years, according to a report released Wednesday. More than one in five large U.S. private institutions failed to investigate all the sexual assaults they reported to the Education Department.

Title IX, the law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools, requires institutions to prevent, respond to and investigate sexual assaults to ensure equal access to education. More than 10 percent of colleges in the survey lacked a designated Title IX coordinator, which is required by law, according to the 120-page report.

"Many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices in how they handle sexual violence among students," the report said. "These problems affect nearly every stage of the institutions' responses to sexual violence."

Students nationwide have been holding protests and complaining to the Education Department about the frequency of rape and sexual misconduct on campus. McCaskill sent out the surveys in April to learn how incidents are reported and schools handle them.

More than 20 percent of schools surveyed give no training to faculty and staff on sexual-assault prevention and responses, and about 31 percent of the schools don't give training to students, according to the survey.

Colleges and universities have been required to provide such training since 1993, said Daniel Carter, director of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation's 32 National Campus Safety Initiative.

"It is concerning that as many as 31 percent of schools may not have been complying with the mandatory education requirement," Carter said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The survey found poor coordination with campus police enforcement, with 30 percent of institutions failing to train officers in how to respond to reports of sexual assaults. More than 70 percent of colleges and universities surveyed lacked guidelines for local law enforcement and college officials to work together on responding to sexual violence.

McCaskill is leading a bipartisan group of senators to develop legislation aimed at increasing prosecutions of rape and sexual assault by local law enforcement.

President Barack Obama's administration has demanded that schools put more effort and resources into preventing and responding to sexual assaults. In 2011, the administration issued guidance saying that failure to do so would violate Title IX, the law that bars gender discrimination in education. In April, a White House task force called for colleges by 2016 to begin anonymously surveying students on rates of sexual assault.

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