September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM).
NCSAM received the unanimous support of congress in 2008. Each September, the Clery Center partners with colleges, universities, and other organizations to offer campus safety resources, programming, and ideas.
THIS YEAR’S THEME: MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER
Although headlines capture the best- and worst- of the field, there’s one thing the Clery Center knows to be true: people don’t function well in fear; individuals make the best decisions when they are informed, offered support, and are confident in their knowledge and skills.
Keeping this in mind, the Clery Center is continuing its practice of dedicating National Campus Safety Awareness month to providing professional development resources and opportunities that can help practitioners move forward on their own campuses.
In accordance with National Hazing Prevention Week, the Clery Center is featuring resources (below) for general audiences (students, parents, etc.) who wish to understand and communicate effectively about hazing, and learn strategies for bystander intervention.
Free Film: We Don’t Haze: This 15-minute documentary interweaves personal experience of victims and their families to illustrate the effects of hazing and to inspire students to create safer campus communities.
Title IX Complaint filed due to school district’s gross mishandling of sexual assault on a freshman student.
The assault our client endured, and the school administration’s reaction thereafter, is chronicled by Slate contributor Nora Caplan-Bricker, in a piece entitled, “My School Punished Me.”
In the gripping article (below) Caplan-Bricker discusses the complaint itself while simultaneously casting a spotlight on the larger issue of sexual assault and Title IX mismanagement occurring all too frequently in K-12 schools across the nation.
Peachtree Ridge High School is a low-slung concrete building in Suwanee, Georgia, an affluent suburb north of Atlanta. School had just gotten out on Feb. 4, 2015, and a 16-year-old sophomore was waiting just inside the main entrance for her mother to pick her up, she says, when a male classmate approached and said he wanted to show her some video equipment. She says that she followed him into the school’s newsroom, just down the hall, where he allegedly coerced her into performing oral sex.
The next morning, the female student did something unusual for a sexual assault victim: She went straight to her first-period teacher and, in tears, reported the incident. (Since both parties are minors whose names have never appeared in the press, Slate is protecting their privacy and will refer to the alleged victim by her initials, T.M.) What followed was at least as disturbing as the event she detailed, according to a legal complaint that T.M.’s family submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
The Peachtree Ridge resource officer who first questioned T.M. set the tenor of the school’s investigation when he asked her to describe what she was wearing at the time of the assault, according to the complaint, which the family’s lawyers provided to Slate. The complaint says the officer also requested that she explain why she didn’t fight off her assailant: “Why didn’t you bite his penis and squeeze his balls?” he allegedly asked. (The resource officer did not respond to a request for comment, nor did other school administrators named in the complaint, or the two teachers to whom T.M. originally reported the incident.)
The complaint states that within days, T.M. and her parents were informed that she would be suspended, as would the boy, until the school could conduct a joint disciplinary hearing. There, she and the alleged perpetrator, or their legal representatives, would cross-examine each other. If T.M. couldn’t prove that what she’d experienced was assault, she would be disciplined along with the boy for engaging in sexual activity on school grounds, a violation of Peachtree’s rules.
“We begged and pleaded with the superintendent to hold the hearing for each one separately, so that it would be less traumatizing,” T.M.’s father told me. “We even considered not having her attend at all.” But not showing up would have resulted in an automatic finding of guilt. They weighed “the moral thing of what’s right—is it right to let that boy get away with it? Is it right to not try to hold the school accountable?” T.M.’s father says. “In the end, we decided, and [T.M.] decided, that she wanted to try to stand up for herself. Of course, that did no good whatsoever.”
“I really wish my school would have helped me instead of looking out for itself,” T.M. wrote to me in a statement. “The school took advantage of me, and that wasn’t fair. … The school should have pulled my attacker out of school and put him somewhere else, far away from me.”
Fulton County District Attorney will not bring charges against the assailants involved in campus rape cases at Morehouse College and Georgia Tech.
The three Morehouse basketball players accused of sexually assaulting a Spelman College student in March 2013 were arrested in April 2013 on various assault and rape charges, released on bond, and suspended from Morehouse while Howard’s office investigated. In the second case, Caleb Ackerman, the Georgia Tech student accused of raping an Agnes Scott College Student at his fraternity house in January 2014, was expelled from the university.
The Georgia Tech case garnered national attention, in part, because Ackerman’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, drew public scrutiny after an email surfaced from one member instructing others how to lure “rapebait” by plying female guests with alcohol.
When the first victim came forward with her allegations of rape after drinking alcohol provided by Phi Kappa Tau members at their fraternity house, another Agnes Scott student followed suit, telling Georgia Tech police Ackerman had raped her in 2012 at an event held at the fraternity house. While the second women did not wish to pursue criminal charges against Ackerman, both women sued the fraternity, saying it “promoted a rampant culture of rape and misogyny.”
Attorney Douglas Fierberg, represented both women in the civil case against the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity that settled about a year ago for an undisclosed sum. Fierberg says Howard’s delay was unwarranted.
“We were able to bring a (civil) case forward, prove what needed to be proven and reach a resolution long before the state decided to move or not,” Fierberg said.
The long delay of Paul Howard’s decision – over two years – prompted complaints that both the accused and the victims were left in limbo.
Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, alongside their Title IX attorney, Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group, break their silence about K-State lawsuits in an interview with ABC News.
As School Violence Law touched on last week, attorney Cari Simon brought suit against Kansas State University on behalf of two women, claiming the school ignored their reports of being sexually assaulted.
The women filed separate federal suits against Kansas State University after university officials refused to investigate their reports of rape by fellow students because the incidents had occurred at off-campus fraternity houses.
Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer told ABC’s Good Morning America in an interview Monday morning that they went public with their names because they feel they’ve done nothing wrong.
“If this is what we have to do to make sure that this doesn’t happen to a single, one more person, if this is what it takes — then that is what we have to do. It was terrifying, I am always fearful they will come back. Fear is the main thing…. The only thing I hope to gain from this is that nobody has to have the same experience as us.” Weckhorst said of the assaults. “I felt worthless and I didn’t know how to do relieve that pain, there was no closure for it,” adds Farmer.
Both women reported the sexual assaults to police and went to hospitals where rape kits were taken. Farmer and Weckhorst also reported their assaults to two different faculty members.
“I went to the offices and they gave me a lot of back and forth, and I answered a lot of questions and they told me they couldn’t investigate cause it was off campus,” Farmer said.
Both lawsuits suits cite that “under Title IX, if a student files a complaint with the school, regardless of where the conduct occurred, the school must process the complaint in accordance with its established procedures.”
“What Kansas State seems to be ignoring is that the victims of sexual violence keep feeling the effects of the assault long after the sexual assault,” – Cari Simon
ABC News reports that the president of the student body has released a public statement in support of the two students saying they respect the bravery of the women in stepping forward and that “a change needs to be made in order for all K-State students to feel taken care of and supported in all aspects concerning campus safety.”
Attorney Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group files Title IX lawsuits Against Kansas State University on behalf of two sexual assault victims.
The official press release reads as follows:
Kansas State University Will Not Investigate Rapes at its Fraternities
Two sexual assault victims file Title IX lawsuits as University takes no action
MANHATTAN, KANSAS – Two sexual assault victims filed federal lawsuits today alleging Kansas State University (“K-State”) violated their rights under Title IX by failing to investigate their reports of rape by K-State students. Despite the fact the assailants and victims are all students at K-State and the assaults happened at events hosted by University-recognized fraternities and at fraternity houses, K-State has refused to investigate because the rapes happened “off campus.”
As universities across the country grapple with the epidemic of sexual assault on campus and how best to respond to guarantee equal and safe access to education for all students, K-State has taken an unlawful approach: “deliberate indifference,” according to the complaints. The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group, bring action to vindicate their statutory rights to equal educational opportunities, rights which K-State violated and will continue to violate absent relief from federal court.
“Kansas State’s interpretation of its sexual assault policy deliberately turns its back on one of the most dangerous aspects of its campus life, conveniently writing fraternity rape out of its responsibility,” said attorney Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group who represents the two victims. According to the complaints, despite months of continued pleading from the victims and their families to investigate the rapes and remove the student-assailants from campus, the victims have been left to languish on campus in fear and under the constant risk of encountering the unpunished and perhaps emboldened assailants.
Sara, one of the plaintiffs, was raped by two K-State students during a fraternity event and again later at the fraternity house. Sara reported the assaults immediately. Over a dozen students witnessed the first assault, some taking photographs and shared on social media. Tessa, the second plaintiff, was raped by an unknown K-State student at a K-State fraternity house, and she also reported the assault immediately. K-State refused to investigate either of the reports of rape because the assaults occurred off campus.
K-State is under federal Title IX investigation by the United States Department of Education because of its failed response the rapes of these two young women, and likely other fraternity rape victims.
“K-State is sending the message it will not hold rapists accountable as long as they lure their victims off campus. Until this practice is changed, the University is emboldening would-be rapists. Sara and Tessa are filing these lawsuits because they do not want this to happen to anyone else.” Ms. Simon said.
“K-State needs to put its students’ safety first,” said Dustin Van Dyk, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “K-State has knowledge of incidents of sexual assault at its fraternities far beyond those of Sara and Tessa, yet it does not warn victims of those dangers or take action when they report.”
About Cari Simon & The Fierberg National Law Group:
The Fierberg National Law Group represents victims of sexual violence throughout the entire college or high school disciplinary process and judicial hearings, and civil litigation ensuring that their Title IX rights are protected and that perpetrators are held responsible to the fullest extent of the law. The national Title IX movement expertise of Cari Simon paired with the experience of Doug Fierberg in the field of school and fraternity violence make the duo uniquely effective advocates for people who have suffered rape or sexual assault in schools, universities, fraternities, and sororities.
To read coverage of the ongoing suit as reported by The New York Times click here.
Attorney Cari Simon advocates on behalf of sexual assault victims, spotlighting the academic impact of sexual violence.
Cari begins with Deena’s* story, a young woman who was raped while attending university.
The semester Deena* was raped, her grades plummeted: She received a “D” in one course and failed another. It was the classes requiring participation in which her grades suffered the most, as some days she was too terrified to leave her dorm room, especially after running into her assailant on campus.
When Deena went to her academic dean to explain, he patronized. “Lots of students graduate with a 2.0,” he said. Sure, Deena was aware that some students did. But Deena graduated at the top of her high school class; she shouldn’t have been one of them.
Cari has worked with over a dozen campus sexual survivors and states that unfortunately, Deena’s experience is a common one – all saw their grade-point averages unfairly deflated due to sexual violence, sometimes dramatically. As one of her clients bluntly put it, “it’s as if my transcript is covered in his semen.”
These deflated GPAs have a rippling negative impact on survivor’s graduate school options and access to professional opportunities. Those lost opportunities are devastating on a micro-level — individual students miss out on what they had worked hard to achieve, Cari explains.
But the problem also has serious consequences on the macro level. It means that we as a society are losing out on the contributions that these students would have made had they been able to start off in professional careers and attend graduate schools that are reflective of their merits, not their rape.
A supportive school is well-positioned to help students like Deena, and lessen the academic impact of sexual violence.
She asserts, it is the responsibility of the school, not the student, to ensure the academic accommodation needs are met and proposes some remedial measures a school could offer to do just that:
Restore Academic Record. Where a student’s grades have already suffered because of a sexual assault, for example because the student had not yet informed the school of the assault, or the school failed to provide accommodations, schools should provide opportunities to remedy the survivor’s transcript. For example, the school could remove affected grades, allow the survivor to retake a course, replace poor grades with “passes,” or offer to attach an official addendum to transcripts explaining impacted grades.
Graduate programs. Graduate schools should invite applicants to explain low grades related to sexual violence, and provide opportunities for students to recalculate their GPA without the assault-affected grades. These efforts should be done in a manner that respects the applicant’s privacy.
Schools should make every effort to ensure that their misconduct proceedings do not to interfere with academic success. I worked with a student who was required to complete an appeal of his rape case during his exam period. His final grades that semester were the worst of his academic career. Access to campus justice should not have inversely impacted his GPA. Schools should take care not to schedule hearings during midterms or final exams.
GPA requirements. Where schools have a GPA requirement for maintaining a scholarship or participation in school programs, survivors should be offered a semester or year-long forgiveness period in which their grades would not count towards eligibility.
Warning signs. Where a student’s grades take a sudden downturn, academic deans should be on alert that the student might have experienced sexual violence-related trauma, and reach out to that student before placing her or him on academic probation.
“Survivors have gone on to achieve great successes. But they shouldn’t be handicapped by grades impacted by sexual violence. And schools can do much to prevent the academic fallout that all too often follows a sexual assault,” Simon concludes.
‘H A Z E’ is a sobering, realistic portrait of what goes on behind fraternity house walls.
Burkman lifts the curtain on fraternity hazing culture designed to instill loyalty while being secretive and emotionally, physically, and morally challenging.
Based on the experiences of Burkman and others, the film draws similarities to Cal Poly freshman Carson Starky’s alcohol related death in 2008 during a fraternity hazing party.
Burkman also consulted with Doug Fierberg, one of the few attorneys in the United States who specializes in representing hazing victim and their families, to gain a wider perspective on the countless tragedies that have occurred nationwide as a result of fraternity hazing activities.
“By watching the film, the audience can identify with the experience, the emotional ride,” Burkman tells The Tribune of San Luis Obispo,“The byproduct is to educate and help build awareness.”
HAZE has been entered into eight film festivals and won “Best Film” at three of the four events where it has been screened thus far, including DC Independent Film Festival, Soma Film Festival, and Sidewalk Film Festival.
The film is set to be screened at the SLO film festival on March 30th and April 1st.
Click here to learn more about the film and its upcoming screenings.
Willem Golden passed away after falling from the roof at University of Delaware Sigma Pi fraternity house.
With any devastating circumstance, questions mount – how does a community prevent future tragedies and who should be held responsible?
University of Delaware’s unofficial Sigma Pi house offers a text-book example of potential code violations, including broken glass, dangling electric cords, and a barbecue grill strapped outside a third-story window. And while over 1,000 fraternities in the International Conference have gone dry, Sigma Pi isn’t one of them.
Douglas Fierberg – a nationally acclaimed wrongful death attorney representing clients who have sued universities, national fraternities and local chapter members for alcohol-related student deaths – tells delawareonline:
“Even if a party is held at an off-campus unofficial fraternity house, the hosts and the organization may still be liable. These organizations need to be rendered safe, there is no excuse for not intervening.”
Fierberg represented the family of Brett Griffen, the University of Delaware student who died as a result of alcohol poisoning in 2008. The Griffen’s brought suit against University of Delaware calling for its Greek life websites to list all violations against fraternities and sororities. Despite the attainment of policy change at University of Delaware, Fierberg urges families to remain cautious:
“Colleges and universities continue to publish vague information – if they publish it at all – about fraternity interactions, including deadly hazing rituals and sexual assaults. We’re still facing significant problems because most universities refuse to tell the truth about student deaths at Greek organizations.”
School Violence Law offers our deepest condolences to the Golden family during this difficult time.
Click here to read the delawareonline article in its entirety.
“Top national hazing and sexual assault attorney hired to represent victim in Ooltewah sexual violence lawsuit.” – Times Free Press
School Violence Law‘s Doug Fierberg and attorney Eddie Schmidt, from Nashville, will be representing the 15-year-old Ooltewah High School freshman and his family who was allegedly raped as apart of a freshman hazing ritual committed by three of his upper-class man teammates during a basketball team trip to Gatlinburg on December 22nd.
Representatives in Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston’s office said they believe younger players endured abuse from older teammates before the trip. It was a part of the team’s “beat-in” culture, and it was routine for freshman to be hazed and even assaulted, they told to The Times Free Press.
“Fierberg’s practice, School Violence Law, is the only nationwide practice that specializes in representing victims of violence in school-related incidents; and Fierberg has personally served as lead counsel for victims of sexual violence and hazing at schools and universities across the nation.”– Times Free Press
Students seeking to participate in school teams and programs should be protected from hazing and sexual violence. Hazing is not a matter of simple “horseplay,” or validly explained away by notions that “boys will be boys.“
Sexual assault survivors joined Lady Gaga on stage during a powerful and emotionally charged performance of her Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens To You”.
The piece was written for the documentary film, “The Hunting Ground”, an expose of sexual assault crime and cover-ups on US College campuses. Doug Fierberg is featured in the film discussing legal issues victims encounter on campus.
Gaga was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden who spoke about The White Houses’ It’s On Us campaign to keep men and women safe from sexual assault.
Lady Gaga was raped as a teenager and kept it secret for seven years, opening up about the assault to SiriusXM host, Howard Stern last December:
“I didn’t know how to think about it. I didn’t know how to accept it. I didn’t know how to not blame myself or think it was my fault. It’s something that really changed my life. It changed who I was completely. It changed my body, it changed my thoughts.”
Our clients have traveled paths that may be similar to the one you are presently on. They have valuable insights they are willing to share (including, of course, regarding our work). Many clients have become strong advocates, as a matter of necessity. Please feel free to inquire about this, and, where appropriate, we will gladly connect you to them, as they too are committed to offering their help and unique insight.