Schools

Federal Guidance

The Clery Act

Section 304 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

  • Enacted in March 2013, Section 304 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 amended the Clery Act to mandate extensive “primary prevention and awareness programs” and expanded the scope of this legislation in terms of reporting, response, and prevention education requirements around rape, non-stranger rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

  • Read more about the Clery Act and campus safety reporting

Title IX Compliance Requirements

Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence (2014)

  • In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a question-and-answer document to provide additional guidance to federally funded schools about their obligations under Title IX to address sexual violence.

  • This guidance further clarifies the legal requirements under Title IX articulated in OCR’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence and its 2001 Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance.

  • Although some examples in this Q&A are applicable only to institutions of higher education, the legal obligations outlined in the letter also apply to elementary and secondary schools.

  • Read the question-and-answer document

Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on Title IX Coordinators (2015)

  • In April 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a guidance package emphasizing the responsibility of school districts, colleges, and universities to designate a Title IX coordinators.

  • This guidance package includes three documents: a Dear Colleague Letter to school districts, colleges, and universities reminding them of their obligation to designate a Title IX coordinator; a letter to Title IX coordinators that provides them with more information about their important role; and a Title IX resource guide that includes an overview of Title IX’s requirements in several key areas, including sex-based harassment.

  • Read the guidance package on Title IX coordinators

Retaliation Guidance (2013)

  • In April 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to remind federally funded schools that retaliation is a violation of federal law.

  • Under federal civil rights laws, including Title IX, it is illegal for a school to retaliate against an individual for speaking out against possible civil rights problems at the school.

  • The prohibition against retaliation means that if a student, parent, teacher, professor, coach, or other individual complains formally or informally to a school about a potential civil rights violation, such as failure to address sexual violence, or participates in an OCR or school investigation or proceeding, the school is prohibited from retaliating against the individual because of their complaint or participation.

  • Read the retaliation guidance

Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence (2011)

  • In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter, providing guidance to schools on their obligations to prevent and address sexual violence under Title IX.

  • It reiterates that under Title IX, all schools that receive federal funds must take immediate and effective steps to respond to sexual violence.

  • Although some examples in this letter are applicable only to institutions of higher education, the legal obligations outlined in the letter also apply to elementary and secondary schools.

  • Read the guidance on sexual violence

Dear Colleague Letter on Harassment and Bullying (2010)

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Dear Colleague Letter in October 2010 to clarify the relationship between bullying and discriminatory harassment under civil rights laws.

  • The guidance discusses sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, racial and national origin harassment, and disability harassment and illustrates how a school should respond in each case.

  • Although this letter focuses on elementary and secondary schools, the legal principles outlined in the letter also apply to institutions of higher education.

  • Read the guidance on harassment and bullying

Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic (2008)

  • In September 2008, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a pamphlet on how to recognize and address sexual harassment under Title IX.

  • This document is a great resource for students, parents, school administrators, school employees, and others.

  • Read the pamphlet on sexual harassment

Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance (2001)

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance in January 2001 on the sexual harassment of students by school employees, other students, or third parties. The guidance discusses in detail schools’ obligations to address the sexual harassment of students under Title IX.

  • Read the guidance on sexual harassment

Maintaining Confidentiality

Principles of Confidentiality

Schools often struggle with balancing a survivor’s confidentiality and fulfilling their obligation to provide a safe educational environment for everyone by holding perpetrators accountable. But a few guiding principles should inform any reporting and confidentiality protocol: namely, confidentiality must give survivors choices and not shield a school from inaction. To the greatest extent possible, the survivor’s wishes should be respected, whether it be for a full investigation – or not.

It’s also true that there’s no one-size-fits-all model of survivor care. There must be options, which means that schools should make it clear up front who at the school must share what information with whom – and the circumstances in which a school may need to override a request for confidentiality and conduct an investigation to protect the greater school community.

And in all cases, whether or not it fully investigates a particular incident, schools must respond. Schools must protect and help survivors reclaim their education, and determine what school-wide, or more targeted, responses may be in order.

To help schools carry out these principles, a sample reporting and confidentiality policy is provided. This is not meant as a policy to “cut and paste,” but rather one to help schools get started tackling this difficult issue. This resource uses higher-education specific language but its general principles also apply at the elementary and secondary school level.

Federal Laws on Privacy Protections for Student Health Records

Student health records at most schools are protected by a federal law called FERPA. For health care students receive outside of the school setting, in most cases, a federal law called HIPAA protects the information.

Developing Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures

Guide to Drafting a Sexual Assault Policy

Every school must have a policy that prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, and that policy should be easily accessible and user-friendly. As the Task Force recognizes, there is no one approach that suits every school – but we know that schools struggle to develop policies that are both clear and comprehensive.

To help schools develop or reevaluate their policies we are providing elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities with checklists for creating a sexual misconduct policy. These lists provide both a suggested process for developing a policy, as well as the key elements schools should consider in drafting one. At the outset and perhaps most importantly, schools should bring all the key stakeholders to the table, which may include parents of elementary and secondary school students, survivors, counselors, Title IX coordinators, concerned students and student groups (e.g., LGBT organizations, students of color, athletes, English language learners, students with disabilities), campus or school security, local law enforcement, and local victim service providers. Effective policies will vary in scope and detail, but an inclusive process must be common to all.

We have not endeavored with these checklists to provide schools with all the answers; again, depending on their size, mission, student body, location, administrative structure, and experience, school communities are best situated to decide for themselves what might work best.

Role of Title IX Coordinator

A school’s Title IX coordinator(s) is expected to play a critical role in helping a school ensure that every person affected by its operations—including faculty, staff, and students—are aware of their legal rights under Title IX, and that the school and all of its officials, through its policies, procedures, and practices, complies with its legal obligations under Title IX. This document provides sample language that can serve as a guide highlighting issues for schools to consider when assigning the Title IX coordinator functions and responsibilities related to their response to incidents of sexual misconduct. This resource uses higher-education specific language but its general principles also apply at the elementary and secondary school level.

Definitions of key terms in sexual misconduct policies

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, any educational institution receiving federal financial assistance must notify the school community of its nondiscrimination policy, and must adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for the prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints. This sample language will help schools ensure that students have a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual misconduct, when such conduct creates a hostile environment, the potential consequences for such conduct, and how the school processes complaints. This resource uses higher-education specific language but its general principles also apply at the elementary and secondary school level.

Elements of Providing Victim Services Information

Key Components of Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention/Victim Service Resources

Many schools provide services and advocacy for victims of sexual assault. These services may be provided on campus or off campus via a memorandum of understanding with a local rape crisis center or victim advocacy program. This document discusses the existing research on sexual assault crisis intervention and victim services. It is meant to be the start of a conversation for schools as they work to ensure accessible support services for victims on their campuses.

Guidance for Developing Partnerships with Local Rape Crisis Centers

Colleges and universities can strengthen sexual assault prevention and response programs by developing partnerships with local rape crisis centers. These partnerships can be formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or other agreement between parties. MOUs are often mandated in grant applications, but schools should consider developing these partnerships regardless of whether they are applying for funding. This document provides guidance for developing these relationships along with a sample MOU.

Accessing Federal Resources for Your Campus and Community

The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women

Campuses and communities interested in building or strengthening sexual assault programs should consider applying for a grant through the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) works to stop violence against women and girls through model programs, policy development, and communications. Some of its work focuses on examining how violence affects women, engaging men as partners in prevention of violence, and enhancing college and university curricula to include domestic violence and sexual assault issues.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Rape Prevention and Education program (RPE) strengthens sexual violence prevention efforts at the local, state, and national level. RPE grantees are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and six U.S. territories. Eligible grantees are state and territorial health departments.

Conducting School Climate Surveys

Campus Climate Survey Validation Study and Modular Survey Instrument: Groundbreaking Report and Tool for Measuring Campus Sexual Assault

On January 20, 2016, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, which reports the results of a nine-school pilot test that was conducted to develop a campus climate survey that collects school-level data on sexual victimization of undergraduate studentss. BJS also provided a revised, modular survey instrument that schools can use to create their own climate surveys. The report describes the development of the survey instrument and procedures for data collection, nonresponse bias analysis, weighting, and validity assessment. It presents estimates for each school on the prevalence and incidence of sexual assault, rape, and sexual battery during the 2014–15 academic year, as well as characteristics of the victims and incidents. It also provides estimates of the prevalence of sexual assault since entering college and during the student’s lifetime. In addition, the report examines the relationship between measures of campus climate and rates of sexual victimization. The revised survey instrument includes slight improvements from what was administered in the pilot test and is a helpful tool for institutions designing their own surveys.

Highlights from the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study

These powerpoint slides highlight key findings from the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, with useful charts and graphs illustrating the rates of sexual assault of college students, to whom students report assaults, when assaults occur, and what aspects of campus “climate” are correlated with higher rates of sexual assault. The charts in these slides are all pulled from the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study.

Climate Surveys: Useful Tools to Help College or Universities in Their Efforts to Reduce and Prevent Sexual Assault

Many schools are working to address sexual assault on their campuses, but lack a way to understand the scope or nature of the problem. Climate surveys can help fill this gap in knowledge by finding out how students perceive and experience sexual assault on their campus. Conducting regular climate surveys is a best practice in dealing with campus sexual assault. Universities and colleges often have both the capacity and the will to conduct meaningful climate surveys, but are not sure where to start. This document provides climate survey items/questions that are among the best currently available. The first chapter provides an overview of how to conduct a climate survey, and the second chapter provides an example of an empirically informed survey. Campuses are encouraged to use both of these chapters to guide their work.

Note: while this document is focused on postsecondary institutions, public school districts often conduct climate surveys to assess the learning environment in their schools. The principles in the document apply at the elementary and secondary school level, as well as the postsecondary level.

Prevention Resources

Empowering Bystanders to Act

Bystander-Focused Prevention of Sexual Violence

Bystander intervention is a sexual assault prevention strategy that encourages witnesses to take safe action when they see a situation that might lead to sexual assault, and to support victims after an incident. Bystander intervention shows promise as a strategy to prevent sexual assault, including in schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that bystander strategies may hold promise for the prevention of sexual assault, but more evaluation is needed. This document describes many different bystander programs used around the country and their common components. It also discusses how to deliver bystander education, and challenges to bystander action.

Preventing Sexual Violence on College Campuses: Lessons from Research and Practice

This document created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the best practices in developing, selecting, and implementing prevention strategies with the highest chance of successfully changing sexual violence in communities. While we have a lot to learn about how best to stop campus sexual violence before it starts, there are important steps that college campuses can take now to better address sexual violence.

Sexual Violence Prevention Materials

The College Sexual Assault Policy and Prevention Initiative

This initiative was launched in July 2016 by the Department for Health and Human Services. Awards were made to nine grantees who are committed to working with colleges and universities to influence and implement policies and prevention strategies based on the recommendations from the White House Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault. This three-year initiative will award grantees between $100,000 and $250,000 annually. The grantees are: Futures Without Violence, Georgia Independent College Association, Inc., Guam Coalition Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence, Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault, Men Can Stop Rape, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Texas Women’s University, University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc., and University of New Hampshire.

The STOP Sexual Violence Resource Package

In spring 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) convened a Think Tank with the goal of producing guidance to help campuses enhance sexual assault prevention strategies. As a result, they published STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence, which contains a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities sharpen their focus on prevention activities that have the greatest chance of reducing sexual violence.

Establishing Prevention Programming: Strategic Planning for Campuses

Preventing sexual assault in a school setting requires a thoughtful, well-planned approach. Schools have many factors to consider when deciding what types of programming to offer and how to determine if their efforts are effective. Researchers are still studying the most effective forms of prevention. This document outlines key points to consider in strategic planning for school sexual violence prevention. This process will look different for each school, but this document provides preliminary guidelines and questions to get the process started. This resource uses higher-education specific language but its general principles also apply at the elementary and secondary school level.

Sexual Violence Prevention Strategies: An Overview

Prevention efforts should ultimately decrease the number of individuals who perpetrate sexual violence and the number of individuals who are sexual violence victims. Many prevention approaches aim to reduce risk factors and promote protective factors for sexual violence. In addition, comprehensive prevention strategies should address factors at each of the levels that influence sexual violence - the individual, relationship, community, and society.

Centers for Disease Control Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) Program

The goal of CDC’s RPE program is to strengthen sexual violence prevention efforts. Program activities are guided by a set of prevention principles that include: preventing first-time perpetration and victimization; reducing modifiable risk factors while enhancing protective factors; incorporating behavior and social change theories into prevention programs; using population-based surveillance to inform program decisions and monitor trends; and evaluating prevention efforts.

Sexual Misconduct Policy Messaging

This report prepared by the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire describes research examining the efficacy of different methods to deliver campus sexual misconduct policy in­formation to first-year college students. This research furthers our understanding of strategies that can help schools better engage students, increase their knowledge of sexual misconduct polices and resources, and assist them in developing skills to prevent and respond to sexual assault.

National Sexual Violence Resource Forum: Program Evaluation

Program evaluation is a type of research. In some cases, external researchers or evaluators conduct an evaluation of a sexual violence program or agency. In many organizations, practitioners conduct evaluation to check for program effectiveness, impact, and value. Both researchers and practitioners can learn from one another in order to conduct high quality program evaluation.

Resources for Institutions of Higher Education Only

Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool

This tool was launched in May 2016 by the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education and is designed to provide rapid, customized reports for public inquiries relating to campus crime and fire data under the Clery Act.

The Safe Place Resource Kit

The Safe Place Resource Kit is a collection of guides and online trainings for college campus health staff caring for students who have experienced sexual assault and other trauma, developed by the Department of Education (ED)’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Designed specifically for health center staff who serve as primary care providers to students in higher education, the kit supports health center staff at all levels to understand the likelihood that they serve student patients and even work with colleagues affected by trauma, and the need to infuse trauma-sensitive approaches into their daily routine and create a care environment that supports students affected by trauma.

The Center for Changing Our Campus Culture

Launched in August 2015, this comprehensive online clearinghouse provides important resources for colleges and universities on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. The Center has gathered information from the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for campus administrators, faculty and staff, campus and community law enforcement, victim service providers, students, parents and other stakeholders as they work to change the culture on their campuses.

Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting

The recently released Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting was developed by the U.S. Department of Education to present step-by-step procedures, examples, and references for higher education institutions to follow in meeting the campus safety and security requirements of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. This handbook replaces the 2011 version and includes information on how institutions can comply with the changes the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 made to the Clery Act.

Understanding FERPA, the Clery Act, and Title IX

Colleges and universities that participate in the federal student financial aid programs are subject to Title IX and the Clery Act, and must comply with the laws’ requirements that certain employees report incidents of sexual violence to school officials and notify students about the outcome when they file complaints of sexual violence.

We created a chart to help colleges and universities understand these requirements, clarify how they intersect with students’ rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and resolve any concerns about apparent conflicts.

Note that although elementary and secondary schools that receive federal funding must comply with Title IX and FERPA, they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Clery Act.

Interim and supportive measures for victims

Interim measures are the services, accommodations, or other assistance that colleges must provide to victims after notice of alleged sexual misconduct but before any final school outcomes – investigatory, disciplinary, or remedial – have been determined.

This document provides assistance on how “interim measures” required by Title IX can be incorporated into a college’s sexual misconduct policy and offers sample policy language. In addition, schools can offer supportive measures to victims who do not report the sexual violence, but are seeking assistance from through counselors and victim advocates. This sample language can help schools develop policies in both these areas.

American College Health Association Sexual Violence Toolkit

The American College Health Association developed the Shifting the Paradigm: Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence toolkit to provide facts, ideas, strategies, conversation starters, and resources to everyone on campus who cares about the prevention of sexual violence. While there is a rich volume of tools, knowledge, and resources for intervention after sexual violence, the emphasis of this toolkit is to encourage prevention activities that take place before sexual violence has occurred and which create social change and shift the norms regarding sexual violence.

Peer Educators: The Frontline in Campus Violence Prevention

Information about the roles and responsibilities of peer education in violence prevention and offers guidance on establishing a peer education program. Also included here are special considerations for peer educators at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Preventing Sexual Violence on College Campuses: Lessons from Research and Practice

This document created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the best practices in developing, selecting, and implementing prevention strategies with the highest chance of successfully changing sexual violence in communities. While we have a lot to learn about how best to stop campus sexual violence before it starts, there are important steps that college campuses can take now to better address sexual violence.

Assessing Campus Readiness Manual

A campus-wide approach to sexual violence and explore topics such as evaluating efforts, partnering with campus leaders, assessing campus readiness, and educating campus leaders created by Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

School Climate Surveys

ED School Climate Surveys

A new, free platform of web-based school climate surveys that allows schools to perform sophisticated analyses of school climate was released in March 2016 by the Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Safe and Healthy Students. These surveys enable schools to assess conditions for learning that range from safety to the quality of the instructional environment. The platform includes climate surveys for middle schools, high schools, and colleges & universities.

Campus Climate Survey Validation Study

On January 20, 2016, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, which reports the results of a nine-school pilot test that was conducted to develop a campus climate survey that collects school-level data on sexual victimization of undergraduate students. BJS also provided a revised, modular survey instrument that schools can use to create their own climate surveys. The groundbreaking report describes survey methodology; presents estimates of the prevalence and incidence of sexual assault during the 2014–15 academic year and since entering college; examines the relationship between measures of campus climate and rates of sexual victimization; and makes recommendations for conducting campus climate surveys.

Resolved Federal Investigations

Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Resolutions

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may open investigations at colleges and universities to examine compliance with Title IX and to consider allegations that the schools mishandled sexual assault cases.

Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (CRT) Resolved Cases

The Civil Rights Division (CRT) may open investigations at colleges and universities to examine compliance with Title IX, Title IV, and other federal laws, and to consider allegations that the schools mishandled sexual assault cases.