April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and schools and colleges around the country are waking up to the power of Title IX — the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education programs — to combat sexual violence on campus.School administrators can't afford to ignore Title IX.
In the past year, the Supreme Court ruled that victims of sexual harassment can bring both Title IX claims and constitutional claims against schools that deliberately ignored harassment that they knew was going on at the school. And well-known universities continue to be forced to reform ineffective sexual assault prevention and response programs.
In early 2009, Arizona State University settled a case in which a rape victim alleged that ASU had expelled a prominent athlete from campus because of his egregious sexual harassment of other women, only to arrange, at the behest of the athletics department, to have him re-admitted with no supervision.After the athlete allegedly raped the plaintiff in her dorm room, the student victim brought a Title IX lawsuit, in which the ACLU filed an amicus brief. In the resulting settlement, the school not only paid the victim money damages, it also agreed to reform its sexual assault program, starting with appointing a statewide student safety coordinator to review and reform its policies for reporting and investigating incidents of sexual harassment.
The case — which was widely publicized, and followed on the heels of other high-profile Title IX sexual assault lawsuits in recent years — should galvanize students to use Title IX as a tool to demand more effective policies to prevent and deal with incidents of sexual violence on campus.
In order to encourage students to capitalize on recent Title IX cases involving sexual violence and harassment, the ACLU Women's Rights Project has collaborated with Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) to bring students the information and resources they need to use Title IX to prevent sexual violence in schools. Go to www.aclu.org/sexualassault, and then work with fellow students and school administrators to make your campus a safer place.