Colleges to keep sex crime stats under new federal laws

From staff reports

Colleges in the U.S. will be required to keep statistics on dating violence, domestic violence and stalking – in addition to currently maintained statistics on sexual assault  if the Obama administration finalizes proposed changes to the Clery Act.

The announcement came June 19 from the Department of Education in response to growing concern about sex crimes at higher education institutions across the country.

“These new rules strengthen schools’ capacity to provide safer college campuses for students and to keep everyone better informed about campus security policies and procedures,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.

The rules were drafted by a panel of students who were survivors of sexual assault as well as representatives from advocacy organizations, law enforcement, colleges and other groups.

The Education Department outlined these changes among the proposed rules:

– Adding gender identity and national origin as categories of bias under the Clery Act’s definition of hate crimes;

– Adopting the FBI’s revised, more inclusive definition of rape;

– Requiring institutions to ensure that their disciplinary proceedings in response to alleged incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are prompt, fair and impartial;

– Strengthening protections for victim confidentiality while helping victims to access the support, services and the disciplinary and legal options available to them; and

– Specifying requirements for programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, including prevention and awareness programs and campaigns.

The public has until July 21 to comment on the proposed rules, which were formally published June 20 in the Federal Register. The Education Department said after considering public comment it will finalize the rules by Nov. 1.

WSU communications director Kathy Barnard said once the university has reviewed the rules it will make any policy changes that are required or deemed appropriate.

WSU is one of 55 higher education institutions that the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights began investigating May 1 for alleged mishandling of sexual assault and other violations of Title IX, Title VI and the Clery Act. So far, the OCR has dismissed at least two such complaints in that investigation.