Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and 19 attorneys general nationwide sent a letter United States Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressing concern over reports the Department of Education is preparing to roll back important protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses and urging her to keep these protections in place. The Attorneys General also called on Secretary DeVos to work collaboratively with them to take action to end the scourge of sexual violence on our campuses.
"Secretary DeVos has shown little compassion for victims of college sexual assault and is becoming increasingly tone deaf to the legal and emotional consequences of abandoning the protections put in place to help victims of sexual assault," said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. "Turning a deaf ear is not going to make the problem go away, but it will have a chilling effect on victims' who fear coming forward because there are no protections in place."
The Department of Education's current guidance was first issued in 2011 and later clarified in 2014. The guidance instructs colleges on how they must address sexual assault incidents under Title IX. These steps include appointing a Title IX coordinator, requiring mandatory reporting by responsible school officials, and implementing procedures for handling investigations and hearings.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Title IX tracker, as of July 9, 2017, there have been 408 investigations of colleges for their handling of reports of sexual violence 64 of those have been resolved and 344 remain open.
Of particular concern to the Attorneys General were the comments from Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson, who claimed that 90 percent of campus sexual assault allegations "fall into the category of 'we were both drunk,' 'we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'"
The letter reaffirmed the Attorneys General's commitment to working collaboratively with Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to address the problem of sexual assault, including suggesting the Secretary engage with a bipartisan group of Attorneys General and other stakeholders to discuss collaboration.
In addition to Attorney General Kilmartin, the other 19 Attorneys General signing on to the letter to Secretary DeVos are: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.