Blog : title ix

‘It’s Like the Wild West’: Sexual Assault Victims Struggle in K-12 Schools

Under the Trump administration’s proposed Title IX regulations, schools would be expected to recognize complaints only where harassment is “severe and pervasive,” and could decline to investigate claims that happen off campus or outside the school’s programming.

The rules would no longer explicitly define how schools should address a “hostile environment” for accusers.

Check out the NY Times Article Here.

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Amid Alleged Broomstick Hazing Ritual Scandal, Damascus High Principal Resigns, JV Football Coach & Athletic Director Placed on Leave

When a JV high school football team,  thought to be like a family, allegedly commits the tradition of “broomstick” hazing to new teammates, the story is going to draw ongoing negative media attention…

Yesterday, the principal of Damascus High School in Maryland announced her resignation as a result of the alleged October 2018 “broomstick” hazing and rape of junior varsity football team members at the school.

This announcement follows news that the Damascus High’s JV football coach, Vincent Colbert, who was reported as the first school official to know about the attack (and that the school system waited hours to alert police) was placed on leave last month as part of the ongoing investigation…and later last night, a letter to coaches announced that the athletic director was also put on leave.

This heartbreaking news of hazing and sexual assault in high school is reminiscent of the suit School Violence Law & The Fierberg National Law Group filed on behalf of the Ooltewah High School rape victim who was sodomized with a pool-cue by teammates.

Read our first Blog article regarding the Damascus alleged hazing here.

Follow the ongoing coverage at The Washington Post, WTOP  and CBS NEWS.

 

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After Sit-In, Fraternities No More at Swarthmore

Inside Higher ED | By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf  | May 2, 2019

After students occupied one of the Greek houses on campus for four days, protesting a long history of accusations against them, the two chapters at the college dissolved themselves.

Swarthmore College’s only two fraternities have disbanded, following days-long protests and the leak of internal documents from one of the chapters in which its members boasted about sexual violence and expressed bigoted views.

Student activists stormed one of the fraternity houses, which the college had leased to Phi Psi, on Saturday afternoon. There they remained, both on the main level of the quaint stone building in the center of campus and in tents pitched around the yard. Students accused administrators of ignoring the sexual assaults they said took place in the house.

In the released documents, Phi Psi brothers called the bedroom in the upstairs of the home a “rape attic.”While allegations of rape have hounded Phi Psi for years, the troubles on campus began after a handful of students put together a blog chronicling anonymous students’ stories of being harassed or assaulted by fraternity members. One of the students who started the project said the students had received more than 100 submissions, not just from students at Swarthmore, known for its academic rigor and its Quaker roots, but also from the two other institutions in the Tri-College Consortium, Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College.

After the blog gained some attention, two student-run publications, the Phoenix and Voices, last month published more than 100 pages of what appear to be Phi Psi meeting “minutes” from 2012 to 2016. The logs detail explicit behavior and racial prejudice by fraternity members.

More than 100 students overtook the Phi Psi house on Saturday, and the same day President Valerie Smith informed the campus that she would block fraternity activities until an investigation into the documents had finished. The investigation will be conducted by Christine Wechsler, a lawyer with the Pennsylvania-based firm Elliot Greenleaf. Wechsler was previously part of the Pennsylvania governor’s Office of General Counsel. She will review the documents and determine if any current students may be implicated in policy violations and identify activities that may be ongoing and infringe on federal or state laws or college rules.

After initially disavowing the documents — while also claiming that the trends had not continued with the current crop of members — Phi Psi late Tuesday stated on Facebook it would dissolve and turn the house back over to the college.“We cannot in good conscience be members of an organization with such a painful history, “ the members wrote on Facebook. “Since the start of our membership, we made it our mission to improve the culture and perception of Phi Psi. Unfortunately, the wounds are too deep to repair, and the best course of action for all those involved is to disband the fraternity completely.”Though not the primary target of student ire, the campus’ other fraternity, Delta Upsilon, also announced on Tuesday that it would disband.“After much discussion, the members of Delta Upsilon have unanimously decided that disbanding our fraternity is in the best interest of the Swarthmore community,” the fraternity wrote on Facebook. “We hope that our former house will provide a space that is inclusive, safe, and promotes healing.”What will become of the buildings, which for many years have housed the fraternities, remains unclear. Students had demanded that they be converted into spaces that would cater to minority students on campus, or as one activist phrased it, those factions that had been “victimized” by the fraternities.

A spokesman did not respond to request for comment about the future of the buildings and other questions.

Swarthmore is in the midst of studying its now even further shrunken Greek system. Only one sorority remains on campus. The committee conducting that work will still continue it, Smith said in a message to campus Wednesday.“Still, as a community, we have much healing to do,” Smith said in a statement. “We have heard heartbreaking stories from students who feel unwelcome to the point of wanting to transfer out of our community. Those stories have come from across the spectrum of our student body — from student protesters to fraternity members. Stories such as these reflect our failure to realize the values we so often espouse.”Smith stressed that the college would investigate any reports of sexual violence that reached officials. Swarthmore has long struggled with its handling of sexual assault cases. It was subject to a highly controversial and publicized complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal sex antidiscrimination law, in 2013.

And students have protested the college’s response to sexual assault before. Last May, students participated in a sit-in over Title IX issues, and eventually the dean of students who was criticized during the demonstrations resigned.

The fraternities also have come under fire. In 2013, students voted down a referendum measure to ban Greek life from Swarthmore. The same year, Phi Psi was blasted for circulating recruitment materials that featured naked women. The fraternity was suspended in 2016 for alcohol violations and resumed hosting parties last year.

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Students sings songs inside the Phi Psi fraternity on Swarthmore College's campus. The protesters occupied the fraternity house in protest.

As of Thursday, dozens of activists ramped up their protest by moving a sit-in from the Phi Psi fraternity house to outside the school president’s office, a move that preceded the college calling in Swarthmore Borough police, though no one was arrested as of Thursday afternoon. A college spokesperson says president Valerie Smith is willing to meet with the protesters if they vacate her office, but they said they have no plans to leave.

The protesters didn’t come empty-handed. They brought five boxes of signs they say once adorned the walls of the fraternity house they occupied as a symbolic “move-out.” A sampling of what is now in the administration building: a Natural Light banner, a stop sign, a Marlboro cigarettes advertisement, a Dogfish Head craft beer sign, and a Haverford Athletics posting that reads, “No running in the grandstand.”

In a statement, president Valerie Smith condemned the language used in the documents and promised an investigation into whether any current students were involved in the illegal behavior described. She also stated a task force convened to examine Greek life on Swarthmore’s campus would issue recommendations to her by today.

Maya Henry, a junior with Organizing for Survivors, the advocacy group behind the sit-in said the activists want to sit in the president’s office until she makes her decision. They’re concerned the school will push off making a choice until summer when many of the school’s 1,600 students won’t be on campus. Classes end Friday; final exams take place the week of May 9.

“If the college doesn’t take a formal stance against fraternities, then at any time they can decide to come back,” Henry said. “It’s not about these particular fraternity brothers right now. It’s the whole system that repeats itself because this is the nature of fraternities.”

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Swarthmore College Students – Angry Over Reports of Sexual Violence and Leaked Fraternity Documents – Stage Sit-In

For 3 days, students at Swarthmore College have occupied the quarters of one of the college’s two fraternities.

The demonstration transpired after “unredacted materials” were anonymously leaked to student journalists that contained derogatory comments about women, minorities and the LGBTQ community, and jokes about sexual assault allegedly written by former members of one of Swarthmore’s fraternities – Phi Psi – whose house the students seized.

The documents labeled as “minutes” are allegedly “secondhand recaps of Phi Psi members’ activities.”

#TitleIX #itsonus #SAAM #IAsk #EROC #nomore

Read the Full Story Here.

 

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Title IX Precedent Set in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Kansas State University’s petitions to rehear its motion to dismiss our lawsuit that claims KSU officials failed to investigate our clients’ sexual assaults.

School Violence Law and our clients have now created binding 10th Circuit precedent regarding #TitleIX.

#SAAM #IAsk ✊ 

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New study confirms that fraternity men and athletes are committing more sexual assaults than are those in the general student population

Repeat Rapists on Campus

A new study confirms that fraternity men and athletes are committing more sexual assaults than are those in the general student population — and that repeat offenders are a major problem.

 

Researchers have, many times over, confirmed a sobering fact: fraternity members tend to commit rape much more frequently than their non-Greek-life peers. They’ve also documented that serial offenders account for many campus sexual assaults.

But a new study quantifies in a staggering way the prevalence with which men in fraternities and on sports teams engage in sex crimes on campuses — and how repeat rapists are to blame for a vast majority of these incidents. The report suggests that the vast majority of assaults involving alcohol are committed by serial perpetrators.

Experts on campus sexual violence said that these new data support the idea that administrators should kick out students they’ve found responsible for rape. And, they said, it demonstrates need for more targeted education — especially among the men and groups who are committing the most sexual assaults.

Three professors — from Union University in Tennessee, Bowling Green State University and University of Redlands — used data from the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey, or CORE, developed by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. The group there helps institutions figure out students’ attitudes toward drug and alcohol consumption.

The researchers looked at survey data from more than 12,600 male students at 49 colleges and universities in one Midwestern state that was not named. The institutions included in the sample were both two- and four-year colleges.

A little more than 5 percent of those men self-reported that they had committed a sexual assault when alcohol was involved. This matched other literature, which has put the percentage of college men who committed a broader range of sexual crimes between 6 and 11 percent.

Of those who sexually assaulted someone while under the influence, it was more common for them to do it again rather than just once. The researchers found that nearly 3 percent of the men in the overall study committed assault twice or more when alcohol was a factor.

“If you have a man who has been accused of sexual assault and you … find him responsible, it makes sense to expel him from the institution, not necessarily just give them educational sanctions,” said John D. Foubert, dean of the College of Education at Union and one of the report’s authors. “It’s cutting down on the rate of rape at the institution drastically.”

More significant was how many more incidents could be attributed to recurring rapists rather than one-time offenders.

The authors of the study weren’t precise with these data, given that students in the original CORE survey could report a range of how many assaults they had committed (again with alcohol involved). For instance, students could report if they assaulted someone three to five times — in this case, the researchers counted that in their report as an average of four assaults per person.

The researchers documented approximately 2,071 sexual assaults — of those, roughly 950 assaults, or about 46 percent of the incidents, were committed by students who admitted to raping 10 or more times.

S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges and universities on sexual assaults and federal policy, said this was the most striking figure.

“Removing those repeat perpetrators from the population is the only solution in my point of view,” Carter said.

As the researchers note, the men didn’t always classify their acts as rape, per se. Other studies and interviews with men have found sometimes they consider their victim saying no to be a game or a way to spice up the encounter.

Being associated with a fraternity or an athletics team also had a positive correlation with alcohol-fueled rapes, the study found. Heads of fraternities were less likely to commit alcohol-related assaults than just members. The opposite was true for sports teams — the leaders of the teams reported more assaults.

This reporter provided Todd Shelton, a spokesman for the North-American Interfraternity Conference, with a copy of the study, but Shelton said by email he did not have a chance to review it.

“I will say sexual violence has no place on any campus or in the fraternity experience,” Shelton wrote in his email. “NIC fraternities are committed to creating safer campus communities and recently adopted new health and safety guidelines including banning hard alcohol at fraternity houses and events to create a safer environment for members and guests.”

A previous study by Foubert shows that men who joined fraternities were just as likely to have committed sexual violence prior to college as men who didn’t join a fraternity. But the same study showed that fraternity men were three more likely to assault women than their counterparts, suggesting that fraternity culture was the driving factor for the assaults.

Institutions should more aggressively focus on teaching students in “high-risk” environments such as fraternities and sports teams, rather than just the general population, Foubert said. He said bystander training — educating students to intervene when they see their peers are about to commit a heinous act — has been proven to be effective. Foubert called for more research with a larger national sample, noting their information was from a single state. He said it would also be beneficial to interview directly admitted rapists to learn their motives and how they behave.

“They don’t define their behavior as rape — they sometimes define it as seduction,” Foubert said. “I think it would be helpful [to know] what their techniques are to alert women.”

Colleges and universities trying to stamp out sexual predators could learn from law enforcement efforts to prevent terrorism, said Peter F. Lake, a law professor and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Lake used this analogy — the public shouldn’t write off fraternities in total, just as they shouldn’t consider all people of a certain race to be terrorists. Institutions should partner with fraternities to help locate bad apples in a group or the misbehaving fraternities on campus. He said many times, the fraternity members, most of whom are not raping women, don’t have the knowledge or skills to respond to “serious psychopathic behavior.”

“If you eliminate the ones that are doing that from the culture, then the culture will thrive,” Lake said.

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Recent opinion in two campus assault cases will have a far-reaching effect on Title IX claims

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group attorney Jon Fazzola represents Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst in their claims against KSU – stating that the university took no further action after their assaults – thus violating their rights under #titleix.

The university filed a motion to dismiss the case, but Honorable David M. Ebel reaffirmed a 1999 SCOTUS decision that a person does not have to be raped again for the university to be in violation of Title IX…

Within days of this decision, it was used to argue a similar Michigan State University case in which 4 students claimed their Title IX rights were violated… #saam #iask End Rape on Campus RAINN NO MORE National Sexual Violence Resource Center Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area Pave It’s On Us

Read the Full Article Here.

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Betsy DeVos’s Alma Mater Facing Title IX Case

An ensuing lawsuit filed by Michelle Hoffman, regarding the sexual assault her 15-year-old daughter by her 17-year-old boyfriend, against Holland Christian High School has turned Betsy DeVos’s private alma mater in Holland, Mich., into Exhibit A as the secretary moves to overhaul the law that governs school sexual assault — and to bolster the rights of the accused while narrowing the responsibilities that schools have to investigate sexual misconduct.

Read the NY Times article here.

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Kansas State University Can’t Dodge Our Title IX Lawsuit

Image result for kansas state title ix lawsuitA lawsuit filed against Kansas State University (KSU) by two former students who were sexually assaulted was given clearance to proceed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that “Title IX does not require a subsequent sexual assault before a plaintiff can sue.”  This victory will help these women and countless women across the country use Title IX to achieve justice and compel schools to protect survivors.

The two women who brought the suit, Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst, were each brutally raped by KSU students at off-campus fraternity houses.  Both reported the rapes to KSU and identified the perpetrators, one of whom is now in prison.  KSU refused to investigate or take any action against the perpetrators, allowing them to remain on campus, and justified its indifference on the basis that the rapes occurred off-campus.  Ms. Farmer and Ms. Weckhorst sued KSU for violating Title IX, alleging that KSU’s deliberate indifference made them vulnerable to further sexual harassment by the assailants.  KSU disagreed, suggesting that their fear of encountering the assailants on campus had no “basis in reality.”  The Tenth Circuit disagreed, ruling:

Plaintiffs’ allegations are quite specific and reasonable under the circumstances.  Plaintiffs allege more than a general fear of running into their assailants.  They allege that their fears have forced them to take very specific actions that deprived them of educational opportunities offered to other students.  In addition, they have alleged a pervasive atmosphere of fear at KSU of sexual assault caused by KSU’s inadequate action in these cases.  A Title IX plaintiff’s alleged fear of encountering her attacker must be objectively reasonable, but under the horrific circumstances alleged here Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that KSU’s deliberate indifference to their rape reports reasonably deprived them of educational opportunities available to other students at KSU.

“It feels so empowering to know that what Sara and I went through and the work we’re doing could potentially help people all over the country,” said Tessa Farmer.  “It’s just amazing how you can take a terrible situation and turn it into such a positive movement for change.”

Ms. Farmer and Ms. Weckhorst are represented by Jonathon Fazzola, an attorney with The Fierberg National Law Group.

About Jonathon Fazzola & The Fierberg National Law Group

Attorney Jonathon Fazzola and The Fierberg National Law Group represent victims of violence and harassment, including sexual abuse and assault, to make certain their rights are protected, and ensuring perpetrators and institutions that fail to comply with their obligations to protect victims are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Read the Opinion Here.

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