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University of Iowa Fraternities Booted from Campus for Alcohol & Hazing Violations

Aimee Breaux, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Published 6:40 p.m. CT Dec. 13, 2018 | Updated 8:22 a.m. CT Dec. 14, 2018

Four fraternity chapters have been removed from the University of Iowa, following a two-month investigation spurred by multiple alcohol-related incidents, including one death. School officials announced the chapter removals during a news conference Thursday night.

Delta Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the UI chapter of Kappa Sigma International Fraternity were banned from operating as student organizations at the University of Iowa.

The Kappa Sigma chapter, called the Beta-Rho chapter, was also removed from the national organization following allegations of hazing. University officials declined to elaborate on the hazing events that provoked the removal of Beta-Rho Thursday.

The news is the latest in a crackdown on drinking violations at University of Iowa fraternities. Fraternities have been banned from holding events with alcohol after a University of Iowa student died at an out-of-state fraternity formal in 2017.

Twelve chapters were temporarily suspended in September and October for violating that moratorium.

In issuing the suspensions, university officials cited complaints to police and complaints about tailgating events hosted by the fraternities during football seasons. According to notices sent to students,police reported concerns of overdoses and alcohol poisoning at the various tailgates. At some tailgates, Iowa City police reported criminalmischief, loud parties, beer cans being thrown and unconscious individuals.

Following the two-month investigation into the allegations, two fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi, were cleared. According to officials, there was not a “preponderance of evidence to find the chapter responsible for allegations, including tailgates.”

Six other fraternities — Acacia, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Pi and Phi Delta Theta — were placed on probation following the initial investigation results. Phi Delta Theta was placed on deferred suspension.

The fraternities have until Jan. 11 to appeal the investigation findings.

Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, said the timing of the news was not ideal, but university officials wanted to give students living in the fraternity residences time to make other living arrangements if needed.

Fraternity houses are not operated by the university.

In the midst of the investigation and subsequent punishment, students and faculty have been working on a “Strategic Plan” to improve fraternity and sorority life on campus, including improving “risk management, health and safety.” 

The plan will be announced no later than spring 2019. 

Princeton Review has considered UI to be one of the top 20 party schools in the U.S. Princeton Review considered UI the No.2 on that list in 2015. 

So what are your thoughts on this suspension? 

Your Voice Counts: New Title IX Draft Rule on School Sexual Violence & How to Draft a Comment

By now you have likely heard that the U.S. Department of Education recently published a proposed Title IX regulation that would fundamentally change schools’ responsibilities to respond to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence in our K-12 schools and college campuses. Right now, it is only a draft rule and there is an opportunity for anyone in the public to voice your opinion during the formal Notice and Comment period until January 28.

The Fierberg National Law Group invites you to a webinar to learn about the proposed rule and how to write and submit a comment.

The webinar is Wednesday, December 19th, 2:00-3:30 PM EST and will be hosted by the Ending Violence Against Women Project of CDAC and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and features national Title IX expert and TFNLG attorney, Cari Simon.

Register Here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/540751208931213827

#handsofftitleix #titleix #knowyourix @universityeeo 

CLIENT TESTIMONIAL: PRO BONO VICTORY AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE

“I am so grateful for your assistance with everything. I am thankful to have this behind me and I am looking forward to moving on with my studies.”

Lisa Cloutier and The Fierberg National Law Group continued to seek justice pro bono for a sexual assault and Title IX victim who no longer had the ability to pay.

We prevailed on an appeal, convinced the school to let us submit an appeal of discipline, connected her with accommodations for the first time, and negotiated a tuition reimbursement and grade change…all of which were the key items she wanted. 

Timothy Piazza’s Death was a ‘Turning Point’ for America’s Fraternities

By A. Chris Gajilan, CNN | 12/6/2018 (Updated 12/8/2018)

Inhumane, cruel and tragic: Those are some of the words that have been used to describe the 2017 death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.

The 19-year-old died after consuming 18 drinks in 82 minutes and sustaining a traumatic brain injury during a campus fraternity’s hazing rituals, court records, and testimony show.

Now, nearly two years after Piazza’s passing, many say his death has led to key changes in state legislatures and in the college Greek life community.

“The Piazza case is really a turning point to the extent that people know that fraternity hazing is unacceptable,” said John Hechinger, author of “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.”

Four families that lost their sons to fraternity hazing — including Timothy’s parents, Jim and Evelyn — began working in September with the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference. Together, those two groups represent more than 90 fraternities and sororities in the United States.

The parents and the Greek life organizations have formed an anti-hazing coalition and now share a common goal: to pass legislation that would increase criminal penalties for hazing, and to increase education and awareness on college campuses.

“While we may seem like strange bedfellows, we all want the same thing: to end hazing so other parents don’t have to experience what we have,” Jim Piazza said.

So far, the Piazzas have spoken at more than a dozen campuses, directly addressing thousands of students and fraternity and sorority leaders.

“It makes more sense to work with them and have the opportunity to speak to fraternities and sororities and schools … and stop hazing in its tracks by the people who are perpetrating it,” Evelyn Piazza said. “Why not stop it before it even starts?”

Read more: Greek life more popular than ever, despite recent controversy and deaths

Rich Braham is another parent who’s traveled to colleges and universities across the country to support the two-fold mission of education and changing laws.

Braham’s 18-year-old son, Marquise, committed suicide in 2014, and the family believes it was because of alleged hazing while at Penn State Altoona. The case never resulted in criminal charges; the Braham family has filed a civil lawsuit against Penn State, two of its employees, the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and some of its members.

Referring to the case of Timothy Piazza, Braham vividly recalls that the fraternity’s members waited more than 12 hours to call 911 after Timothy fell down a flight of stairs.

“Letting him suffer the way he suffered was just so atrocious,” Braham said. “Tim’s death was a galvanizing point. … It was like, ‘enough.'”

On the campuses he visits, Braham wants to make it clear that these incidents can happen to anyone — and that there will be consequences.

“There was nothing special or unique about our kids. It was Russian roulette,” Braham said. “We want these kids to know that it could be any one of them who dies from hazing. Then, if you don’t hear the message, we’ll lock you up! If you don’t listen, there’s a penalty. It could ruin your lives and future.”

Read more: Why college students subject themselves to abusive hazing

This new coalition of parents harks back to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaign of the 1980s, said John Hechinger, who has reported on fraternities and education for years. When Candace Lightner started MADD in May 1980, four days after her daughter was killed by a drunken driver, public health professionals considered drunken driving to be the No. 1 killer of Americans between the ages of 15 and 24. (The leading cause of death in 2016 for that age group was accidental injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

MADD’s efforts helped reduce the number of drunken driving fatalities and change public perception of driving while intoxicated. Now, the parents in the anti-hazing coalition want to achieve the same with respect to dangerous pledging rituals, and they’ve made some strides on campus and with policy.

In August, the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 66 fraternities with more than 6,100 chapters across 800 campuses, declared a ban on hard alcohol beginning in September 2019. Under the policy, hard liquor — categorized as more than 15% alcohol by volume — will still be allowed if it is served by a licensed third-party vendor.

“Most of the deaths have involved hard alcohol; if a ban on hard alcohol can successfully be enforced, it could be a great thing,” Hechinger said. “My view is that any step is better than none.”

But Doug Fierberg, a school violence attorney who has represented many families who have lost their children to hazing, is more critical. “No new policy is ever going to be better than its means of implementation,” Fierberg said. “Virtually everything the fraternity industry does relies on 18- and 19-year-old men to implement it and make life and death decisions.”

In October, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law was signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. It gives tougher penalties for hazing, making it a felony if it results in death or serious injury.

For its part, Penn State is also developing a national scorecard to provide public information on Greek letter organizations, including alcohol and hazing violations and chapter suspensions.

At the time the Piazza law was signed, a Penn State spokeswoman said it came “in conjunction with the aggressive safety and related measures the University has implemented, (and) is another step toward our mutual goal to increase student safety on campuses.”

“Penn State has been, and continues to be, committed to addressing this serious national issue,” spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement.

With its anti-hazing law, Pennsylvania joined at least 12 other states with tougher anti-hazing laws. But the long-term impact of these efforts remains to be seen.

Since Piazza’s death, there have been other alcohol-related deaths at fraternities across the country. A number of headlines have emerged pointing to fraternities and local chapters being suspended for hazing and alcohol abuse. And even with all that, Greek life is still more popular than ever.

“On one side, we’re seeing all of this apparent reform action, (but) on the other, we’re seeing pushback from the student body,” said Hank Nuwer, author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives.”

“As much good work as the Piazzas are doing, not everybody is listening.”

Full Article Here

CHRISTINA MAIRE & HIS GROUP POSED AS TEENAGE BOYS TO MANIPULATE TEENAGE GIRLS TO DO SEXUAL ACTS ONLINE

Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

December 6, 2018

They were dubbed the “Bored Group” —  nine online predators who targeted vulnerable teenage girls on the Internet, manipulating them into performing sex acts online and even convincing some to cut themselves while they watched.

For five years, they pretended to be teenage boys.

But on Wednesday, the grown men who lurked behind the computer screens came face to face with some of their victims in U.S. District Court in Detroit, where the still-traumatized victims persuaded a judge to lock the men up for decades for robbing their innocence and trust, and for destroying their childhoods.

“Thinking back to those days causes me to cry myself to sleep, wondering when the monsters will stop haunting me,” one victim told the judge.

Christian Maire

The accused ringleader is Christian Maire, a 40-year-old married father of two from New York who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for running an online porn operation that sexually exploited more than 100 girls nationwide, including an Oakland County girl who helped the FBI bust the scheme in 2017.

The operation started in 2012, though arrests did not occur for another five years. Indictments followed.

According to court records, here is how the ‘Bored Group’s’ enterprise worked:

Each member had a role. The “hunters” sought out girls on social media sites and lured them to the un-monitored chat rooms. Once there, the “talkers” took over, convincing girls to undress and engage in sexual activity by talking to them about a variety of subjects, like school, family, sports and sex. The “loopers” were used to entice the girls by playing previously recorded videos of teen boys performing sex acts in a chatroom. The “loopers”  pretended to be the teenage boys in the video, which they used to convince the girls to do the same things.

The “Bored Group” even had a plan for vulnerable victims. If a girl was suicidal or revealed that she was cutting herself, the group held a “trust-building session”  that involved sensitive chats about life and the girl’s worth. The goal was to win the girl’s trust for one reason: “so that she would eventually undress and/or masturbate on a web camera,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

The group’s victims ranged in ages 10-17. They include a girl who was coerced into having sex with her dog, another who was encouraged to masturbate with a banana, and an elite ballet dancer who battled loneliness and anxiety and was manipulated into making more than 60 videos of herself engaged in sexual activity.

The case was prosecuted in Detroit, where Maire on Wednesday pleaded with the judge through tears for a chance to rehabilitate himself.

“I’m really so ashamed of myself and all the harm I’ve caused my victims,” Maire told U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy, sobbing at times. “I never knew I could sink this low …  but I am sick. Pornography led me down a very dark road. If I was here as a parent instead of a defendant, I would be devastated.”

Maire had three supporters speak on his behalf in court Wednesday: a Greek Orthodox priest who said he took Maire’s confession and that he appeared genuinely remorseful; a family friend who is a judge in Georgia, and his father, who apologized to the victims.

“My heart goes out to the victims for the trauma my son has caused … I am truly appalled by his actions,” said the father, who described his son as a loving and doting father who used his college education to grow a fledgling company.

“We’re still struggling to understand what he did,” the father said. “He’s an addict battling an addiction. With proper counseling, he can leave prison a better man … I still love him.”

As Maire’s supporters asked for leniency, a victim in the courtroom whispered to a friend: “But they asked girls to cut themselves.”

‘I was blackmailed’

Several parents and victims attended the sentencing. Some spoke while others sat quietly as the victims told their gut-wrenching stories.

“I am a 20-year-old girl standing here today, facing the monsters that destroyed my childhood due to child exploitation,” said a New Orleans woman, who was lured into the scheme when she was 16. “The internet was my escape from depression that I didn’t know I had at the time.”

Eventually, she started making videos and joined chat rooms, where she met the predators who were pretending to be teen boys.

“I enjoyed having ‘friends’ to talk to every day. They were always there no matter what time of day,” she told the judge.

But then came the blackmail. After flirting in the chat rooms and cultivating an online friendship, one of the men recorded her on video.

“From then on, I was blackmailed into doing things I didn’t want to do. They would threaten to come to my house and hurt my family and I. They even named everyone in my house, so I knew that these threats were serious,” she said. “They would tell me to take off my clothes and touch myself in sexual ways. So, I would try to accommodate their desires because I was scared.”

She added: “Every time I would do so, they would record me and blackmail me over and over again, which turned into an intimidating and vicious cycle.”

Then came the suicide attempts.

“I started hurting myself and I was in and out of the hospital for self-harm and attempted suicide,” she said. “I know they knew I was hurting because they would watch me cry and some would even ask me to self-harm while they watched.”

To this day, the Louisiana woman said, she can’t use a computer. “The tragic pain this has caused me still eats my soul … After all those years of hurt, I struggle with self-love, anxiety, and depression.”

‘Get them help’

Another victim – a 14-year-old girl who was 10 when the men exploited her online – told the judge she “regretted 100 percent” going into the chat room. But at the time, she was young, bullied and teased at school, and she longed for friends.

“I was manipulated … they told me I was special and that they loved me,” the girl recalled. “I thought I was special but I was just pleasing these sick people … I want this to be over with. I’m tired.”

The 14-year-old’s mother also spoke in court, saying her daughter has had night terrors almost every night and struggles with normal activities and school because of the predators.

Then she briefly looked up at the eight defendants sitting side by side in court: half of them hung their heads; the others had blank expressions.

“I look at these guys here —  not one of them looks like they care. They got what they wanted,” the mother said, adding her daughter “just wants a normal life.”

The mother urged the judge to give her daughter and the other victims justice, though she was merciful in her request.

“Get them help,” she said of the defendants. “They need help — as much, if not more than my daughter.”

Hundreds of victims

Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Maire, calling him a chronic liar and manipulator who masterminded an “egregious crime syndicate” that sexually exploited and psychologically scarred preteen and teenage girls.

For reasons unknown, the group typically included the word “bored” in the title of their chatrooms, such as justsoboared, borednstuff, and boredascanbe — hence the name “Bored Group.”

“They hunted girls. They lied to girls. They manipulated girls … And they did so repeatedly for years, victimizing more than 100 girls,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy has argued in court documents, stressing Maire, the “educated, worldly leader of the group, orchestrated it all.”

In court Wednesday, Mulcahy scoffed at Maire’s claims that he quit the child pornography ring out of shame six months before his 2017 arrest.

“It wasn’t shame and remorse, it was the fear of getting caught,” Mulcahy said, alleging Maire had been tipped off by one of his cohorts that the FBI was onto them.

According to prosecutors, Maire ran the scheme with the help of accomplices from across the country who preyed on vulnerable girls who are still struggling to cope.

“Almost all if not all of the minor victims in this case are depressed or in therapy, and several have suicidal intentions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney April Russo stated in court documents. “Some of them have attempted suicide.”

In the end, it was an Oakland County victim who helped the FBI piece the case together, triggering arrests and charges.

According to court records, the now 17-year-old Oakland County girl was tricked into posing nude on a webcam for the “Bored Group.” Among those who sexually exploited her was Maire, who had numerous explicit conversations with the girl when she was 14, records show.

The FBI interviewed the Oakland County girl in June 2017, when she told agents that she had “consistently” been in a chat room with four to five individuals whom she believed to be teenage boys. These people, she told the agents, enticed her to show them her naked body and perform sexually explicit acts while on a webcam.

After that interview, the FBI followed an electronic trail of evidence that led them to the other suspects, including Arthur Simpatico, 47, of Mississauga, Ontario, who was sentenced to 37 years in prison on Wednesday for his role. Prosecutors described him as a “callous” predator who was considered the “best of the best” at recruiting girls in the group and used his technological skills to help the group avoid detection by law enforcement.

It was Simpatico, prosecutors said, who tipped off the crew about the FBI being onto them.

In court Wednesday, Simpatico said from the lectern, handcuffed and shackled in orange jail garb: “I just want to apologize to anyone I’ve hurt. That was not my intention. I can’t take it back. I hope to be a better person in the future.”

In handing down the punishments, Judge Murphy expressed concerns about the dangerous nature of the Internet and said a message needs to be sent to online predators that their actions carry a stiff penalty.

“The amount of psychological damage done to the victims is of a very serious concern,” Murphy said. “This behavior deserves an extremely serious punishment … The Internet has obviously gotten out of control.”

Sentencing will continue Thursday.

The other defendants are:

Jonathan Rodriguez, 37, of West Hollywood, California

Michal Figura, 36, of Swarthmore, Pennylvania

Odell Ortega, 37, of Virginia Gardens, Florida

Brett Sinta, 36, of Hickory, North Carolina

Caleb Young, 38, of Olmsted Falls, Ohio

Daniel Walton, 34, of Saginaw, Texas

William T. Phillips, 39, of Highland, New York

 

Harvard Sanctions Suits Employ Unusual Legal Arguments

Lawsuit Press Conference 1Plaintiffs in twin suits are using creative legal strategies to argue against Harvard’s sanctions that prohibit members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from holding campus leadership positions, varsity team athletic captaincies, and from receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships.

The federal suit alleges that the sanctions amount to sex-based discrimination – violating Title IX and the United States Constitution.

Doug Fierberg, whose expertise was highlighted in The Harvard Crimson’s article stated, “It’s a novel way of twisting Title IX.”

“At the end of the day, the fraternities are going to lose – Just a question of timing.”

Check out The Harvard Crimson article here.

The Devastating Effects of the Ill-Conceived Proposed Title IX Changes

By Douglas Fierberg & Elizabeth Munoz

The Trump Administration’s ill-conceived proposed changes to Title IX will have devastating effects on the hard-fought progress made on decreasing sexual assaults on college campuses and encouraging survivors to report such misconduct.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, approximately 80% of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported.  That number is alarming, for obvious reasons.  Yet, the proposed regulations make both the reporting process and the investigation even more challenging, confrontational and threatening, further discouraging survivors from coming forward and decreasing the ability for justice for survivors.

First, rather than the current “preponderance of evidence” standard, which requires that the wrongdoing is proven as being more likely than not (over 50%), the regulations increase this standard to “clear and convincing,” which is a significantly higher burden of proof. 

There is no valid reason for increasing the required burden of proof for alleged sexual violence, when all other misconduct, including violent and deadly criminal acts, are judged in school disciplinary hearings by a preponderance of the evidence.  For example, a student defending himself in school disciplinary proceedings for allegedly killing, maiming, assaulting, stalking, etc., another student may be found responsible if his culpability is established by a preponderance of the evidence.  Were he charged with an act of sexual violence, though, the government and Secretary DeVos believe his responsibility should be established only by the higher standard of clear and convincing evidence.  Why the difference?  Historical and wrongful gender bias, pure and simple.  The fact is that men (the overwhelming majority of offenders) and women presently have numerous rights to defend themselves at school hearings, and appeal adverse findings to multiple levels of oversight. The idea that alleged offenders presently lack due process in defending themselves is pure fiction.

Second, the current disciplinary systems at schools permit extensive questioning of the survivor and accused to challenge their respective accounts and testimony, though under reasonably controlled circumstances. 

Most often, this involves presenting questions to the judicial panel to be posed to the other party for purposes of exposing inconsistencies or other shortcomings in their claims.  This keeps the proceedings civil and meaningful.  The proposed regulations would essentially set the dogs loose by allowing the representatives of the accused to directly cross-examine, attack and intimidate the survivor with questions that have not been subjected to any prior review by the judicial panel.  The foreseeable result is that survivors will face scathing, wholly irrelevant, abusive and inadmissible questions before the panel even has an opportunity to prevent the abusive questioning.  One simple example where this will certainly cause harm and havoc to survivors is when the accused will invariably seek to use a survivor’s other sexual relationships to prove his own innocence.  Virtually every state and court either prohibits this line of inquiry entirely under so-called Rape Shield statutes or severely limits and closely supervises this line of questioning because of its general irrelevance and abusiveness.  But, by allowing direct questioning by the accused and his representatives, the regulations will undoubtedly result in this type of abuse, which, like bruises, do not simply disappear after the beating stops.

Third, the proposed guidelines change the definition of sexual harassment to be an event, “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.”

Yet, the question of what constitutes sexual abuse and harassment are so often inextricably connected to the specific, unique and subjective surrounding circumstances and persons involved.  It still matters that a young woman is regularly harassed at school by another student about her gender, body and physical appearance, even if she, for reasons particular to her, is more sensitive or vulnerable to such comments than other young women.  That the harassing comments regularly devastate her are not “objectively” offensive to others should not give the abuser a license to continue, and this is a long-settled principle of American law:  A wrongdoer is never deemed entitled to a healthy, strong victim by any actual or quasi-judicial forum in this country.   The wrongdoer is responsible even if his conduct might not have harmed others.

Finally, the proposed regulations lessen the responsibility of schools to protect students to misconduct that occurs on campus, exempting the wide-range of misconduct that takes place in off-campus fraternity houses, other school-related locations, parties and events, even though a substantial portion of sexual assaults occur in these circumstances,[1]  and such misconduct invariably carries onto campus because that’s where the assailant and survivor reside and attend classes. 

It’s on campus – in the dormitories, classrooms, cafeterias, libraries and at school events – that the survivor faces the presence, threat and terrifying harassment of the assailant and, often, his friends and supporters.  It is this threat, unchecked and unresolved, that causes so many survivors academic harm, exclusion, and other damages.  There are absolutely no legal or moral bases for permitting schools to protect a survivor’s educational rights in this circumstance.

Considerable institutional, societal, and structural barriers are already in place which discourages survivors of assault from reporting their assault.  Likewise, those and other structures provide due process, meaningful hearings, and appeals to persons accused of engaging in sexual violence and misconduct.  The proposed regulations do not fix real problems in the system.  Instead, if implemented, they are sure to further discourage survivors from reporting sexual assaults, harm them when they pursue valid claims, and pave the way for numerous assailants to evade responsibility for their misconduct.

[1] The principal insurer and risk-management company for universities conducted a study that found that 41% of assaults occur at off-campus parties.

 

To offer your input, please go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID “ED-2018-OCR-0064” or “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” to begin the process and click on the option to “Comment Now”. Comments are accepted as a text entry or uploaded document, either Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF (text-searchable preferred) and should include the Docket ID. Please note that all submitted comments are made publicly available online, so do not include anything you don’t want to be made public.

The Number of Student-on-Student Sexual Violence Complaints in Chicago Schools is Terrifying

624 Sex Assault Complaints at Chicago Schools This Semester

Associated Press
November 29 at 1:07 PM

CHICAGO — A new office created to look into cases of sexual abuse in Chicago’s public schools after an investigation revealed that the officials had failed to adequately do so has received nearly 500 allegations of student-on-student sexual violence in less than three months.

The Office of Student Protections and Title IX that was created after the Chicago Tribune found broad lapses in how the nation’s third-largest school district protected students from sexual abuse, physical assault, and harassment, including by school employees, since 2011.

On Wednesday, district officials told the City Council’s education committee that in addition to the hundreds of recent allegations of student-on-student sexual violence, they had received 133 reports of alleged misconduct by adults — many of whom work for the district. The district’s deputy general counsel, Douglas Henning said the reports reflect a growing willingness to report sexual abuse.

“We’re in a world now where if you see something that makes you uncomfortable, that you think is wrong, you absolutely have to report that,” she told the committee.

The fact that hundreds of reports were made in a matter of weeks also raises questions about how many more children have been victims of sexual violence — both in the city and around the country.

Last year, The Associated Press reported that more than a third of the states don’t track student sexual assaults and that some of the nation’s biggest school districts reported zero sexual assaults over a multi-year period.

The Chicago school district created its office after the Tribune published its “Betrayed” series that looked into how the district had been dealing with such allegations. Among other things, the new office must forward adult-related complaints it receives to the district’s inspector general. It also has reviewed background checks on tens of thousands of district workers, vendors and volunteers that resulted in 128 employees being fired, recommended for dismissal or resigning under scrutiny.

Some aldermen expressed anger about the way the district is going about protecting students.

“This Office of Student Protections? Their schools should be the office of student protections,” said Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, who is also a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. “When you walk into that building, your school should protect you. You should have a counselor full time, social worker full time.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Equal Rights Amendment is Making Moves

After decades of obscurity, the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution is seeing new momentum, thanks to the #MeToo movement and the Trump Effect.

by Laura L. Dunn, J. D., 2018 TED Fellow
Illustration by Camila Rosa

During the historic Seneca Falls rally in 1923, suffragist Alice Paul put forth a Constitutional Amendment that became the blueprint for the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Our foremothers were not merely seeking the right to vote; they wanted full gender equality under the law (amen!). The ERA is important, because it states, in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” After decades of obscurity, the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution is seeing new momentum thanks to the #MeToo era and the Trump Effect. 

Passing a Constitutional amendment is quite a Herculean task. It took the women’s rights movement 49 years to lobby Congress to put forward the ERA to the states. And when Congress did in 1972, despite there being no time limit for ratification under the Constitution, it added a seven-year deadline to its legislative proposal.

For the first two years, the ERA enjoyed immediate momentum, passing in 22 of the needed 38 states in 1972, and then another eight states in 1973. However, momentum began to slow with only three states ratifying in 1974, one in 1975, none in 1976, and one in 1977. This brought the ERA within three states of passing with two years left on the deadline. Activists lobbied Congress to extend the deadline until 1982. Despite these efforts, there was a growing conservative movement that took on the ERA to kill its momentum and leave the amendment sitting for decades without any progress.

While women’s rights activists burnt their bras in the street and marched in support of the ERA, conservatives claimed the ERA would disrupt traditional family values, result in women’s service in the military, allow same-sex marriage, and reinforce reproductive rights, including access to abortion. In response to this backlash, four state legislatures rescinded their ratification, and the ERA lost momentum and slipped away into obscurity.

Despite the popular vote being in her favor, the country failed to elect the first female president in 2016. Instead, the electoral college placed one of the most morally and ethically questionable male presidents in office. This man is accused of harassing and abusing women, and in response, people are resisting—women are running for political office and people are mobilizing in the streets. The Trump Effect has reignited the #MeToo movement, which is bringing new life to the ERA. In 2017, Nevada ratified it, and in May 2018, Illinois did, too. For those of you keeping count, this brings the amendment within one state of the three-fourths the Constitution requires for full ratification. Though there are open questions regarding the effect (if any) of the congressional deadline, or four-state rescission efforts, many legal scholars believe all that is needed is the constitutional requirement of three-fourths ratification (TBD). 

While we #resist the abusive Trump administration and say #timesup to the
sexual abusers revealed by #MeToo, we really need to start
saying it’s time for the ERA.

Of those the 13 states that haven’t passed the ERA, seven have passed it within one house of its bicameral legislature: Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. These are the states that need a major grassroots surge of support, as well as progressive candidates pushing for the ERA as part of their political platforms. The Feminist Majority Foundation and National Organization of Women (NOW) are mobilizing today. Of the remaining six states, three have not made any effort to pass the ERA: Utah, Alabama, and Georgia, and three have repeatedly failed to ratify the ERA even in one house: Arkansas, Arizona, and Mississippi.

While we #resist the abusive Trump administration and say #timesup to the sexual abusers revealed by #MeToo, we really need to start saying it’s time for the ERA. It is absurd that in this day and time, gender equality is not guaranteed in America at the core of our Constitution.  While there are some protections against it within the Fourteenth Amendment, the venerable and notorious R.B.G., US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has argued this is insufficient to ensure gender equality. As a way to #resist and say #TimesUp, nothing could be more powerful than passing the ERA.

As the famous Black Panther leader, Assata Shakur, famously said, “People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”  Our foremothers left us with some unfinished business. Between the Trump Effect and #MeToo movement, we have regained the momentum needed to finish this job and pass the ERA today. 

Article: Tom Tom Mag