Title IX Victory: Civil Rights Office Condemns School’s Actions in Sexual Assault Case

In 2011, the ACLU filed a complaint on behalf of “Faith,” who was sexually assaulted at her high school and then sent to a disciplinary program after she reported the assault.
 
Last week, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) of the U.S. Department of Education issued a decision finding that Faith’s school violated Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools. OCR concluded that the school had discriminated against Faith by relying on the police and failing to independently investigate the assault she reported. OCR also determined that the school had retaliated against Faith by disciplining her after she reported the assault. As a result of Faith’s complaint and OCR’s decision, the school district will now be obligated to carry out 13 action items designed to ensure that no student goes through what Faith did. These include revising the district’s current policies on sexual harassment and violence, training all staff, designating “on call” counselors to assist victims, and creating a committee that includes parents and students to develop further strategies on responding to sexual violence.
 
Gender-based violence and harassment are behaviors that are committed because of a person’s gender or sex. They can be carried out by a boyfriend or girlfriend, a date, other kids, or adults. Under the requirements of Title IX, schools receiving federal funds have a legal obligation to protect students from gender-based violence and harassment – including sexual assault.
 
Last year, Faith shared her story with us in a blog, Bullying Goes Beyond the Fist, an excerpt of which is below:
 
After being raped the school charged me with sexual misconduct and sent me to a disciplinary school where I had to not only face him, but the bullying of others because he bragged about it.
 
After the police got involved, after being interrogated at the child advocacy center and having to go through a grueling inspection of the lower half of my female parts, I came to find out that these things happen more than we think they do. After my parents met with the police department and the school officials, they found out these things happen one or two times every couple of years at the school I attended. It makes me wonder where those students are now and how those cases were handled.
 
I want you to know, it’s okay to have a voice, it’s okay to come out and talk about your war in hell, it’s okay to say I was a victim – male or female. My family’s life will never be the same, but we are growing and we are healing and we are reaching out to others who have been through this. We want to help other survivors, we want to get them to heal and we want them to know it was not their fault. I can’t imagine life now without helping those who have been through this. Truly this is the only way I am going to get through this myself.
 
Fortunately, after the OCR’s decision, Faith is looking forward with optimism saying,
 
“I am so excited and overwhelmed by OCR’s decision on my Title IX complaint. It’s great to know that because I spoke out, the school district will completely change the way it responds to sexual abuse, including training all of the people who work there about sexual violence and harassment. I can’t erase what happened in the past but what’s important now is making sure that other students don’t get hurt in the same way in the future. I got back my rights after they were taken away from me.”
 
Find out more about schools’ obligations under Title IX and students’ rights here.
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johnhollandlaw

I enjoy reading on the post here. I agree with the school decision for helping Faith from sexual assault happened to her in the school. I really admire that their decision can help a lot of students victim from any assault to happen. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!

michelle eppel

I have read the article on Faith and several issues come to mind. I am a kidnap and rape survivor of 33 years. Police officers do interrogate victims. I was told it was my golden moment to tell the truth about what happened. They made me walk the path over and over explaining the trauma of rape and what happened over and over. I felt like I was the criminal. I was in so much terror and shock and I wondered how they could possibly think blood dripping from head, black eyes, and bodily injuries could possibly happen, did they think I did it? He was finaly arrested and given a short time in jail for his crime 33 years ago. I recovered 30 years on narcotic prescriptions and three years sober since rehab. He he destroyed my soul and murdered my spirit. Rape is not easily overcome. I'm a adv0cate now in Illinois promoting laws. I fought for The Michelle Eppel in Ilinois in 2010. This law makes perpetrators pay lifetime healthcare to victims. I am spreading my law to other Coaltions across the States in hopes states will adopt my law. I have a amendment where victims have the right to have their files seaed. Our names and adresses are available in public records, and this has caused revictimization. I think police officers should be trained in how to deal with victims in the trauma of rape when starting their career. My perpetrator 33 years ago received a short time jail stay. In the Michelle Eppel law perpetrators of rape and molestation have to pay lifetime, long term heaothcare for the victim. After all if the perpetrator is found guilty the State pays their healthcare costs. Don't you think perpetrators deserve to pay for their crime. Also in my law a perpetrator cannot plea bargin as in my case for a lesser crime. Agencies have opened to help victims but healthcare costs are not free for a victim of rape and molestation. I only hope to see more help for victims while fighting for survival. I only wish the help of agencies in counseling were there for me back then as well. Last but not least in my law perpetrators can lose everything they have just like victim does. This is not revenge it's justice.

Anonymous

We also have recently had a finding by the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) of the U.S. Department of Education with a decision finding that Forest Hills Public Schools in Michigan violated our daughters Title IX Civil Rights. The OCR concluded that the school had discriminated against our daughter as they too relied on the police and failed to independently investigate the assault she reported. We did not go to the OCR until the assailant was charged with CSC pleading to lessor charges, the administration did not reprimand him so our daughter moved to another school after enduring seven months of harassment by her peers. Even with the finding by the OCR and the conviction in criminal court the administration has yet to tell our family that they are sorry for the way that they ignored us and that they will try to do what is morally right in the future. It is very sad that the people that should be setting the example for future adults (the teachers, administration and board members) have actively decided that they are above the law.

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