Effort seeks to help schools prevent sex violence

The schools will receive letters and brief outlines of their duties under Title IX.

Federal officials who want educators to better understand how to prevent and respond to sexual assaults will kick off a nationwide awareness campaign Monday outlining victims’ rights and schools’ responsibilities.

Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are scheduled to appear at the University of New Hampshire to announce the initiative that involves colleges as well as public and private K-12 schools.

“Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn,” Biden said. “That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”

The schools will receive letters and brief outlines of their duties under Title IX, the federal civil rights law banning sexual discrimination, harassment and violence.

The regulations are not new, but the effort to promote them is. Officials say schools need comprehensive guidelines for filing complaints, helping victims, disciplining perpetrators, and monitoring campus climates in the wake of an attack.

“Every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence but the facts suggest otherwise,” Duncan said.

Nearly 20 percent of college women will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault, as will about 6 percent of undergraduate men, according to data provided by the Education Department.

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Younger students are vulnerable, too. The department’s Office of Civil Rights received 35 complaints last year alleging sexual violence, about two dozen of them at the K-12 level.

There have been 17 complaints filed in just the first quarter of this year–a 183 percent increase–and about 10 were at the K-12 level. The agency began using sexual violence as a complaint category at the start of the Obama administration.

Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations for the American Association of University Women, said the awareness campaign could be very valuable for school administrators.

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