The Obama administration is pushing colleges and schools to take steps to prevent sexual violence on campuses through expanded enforcement of civil rights laws.
Vice President Biden plans to announce the initiative Monday at the University of New Hampshire, making public a 19-page letter of regulatory guidance to schools from the Education Department. It specifies for the first time that rape, sexual assault and sexual battery should be considered not only crimes but also instances of discrimination covered by the federal rules that bar sexual harassment.
“Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn,” Biden said in a statement. “That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”
The administration’s letter cites data that show nearly 3,300 forcible sex offenses were reported on college campuses in 2009. In addition, there were reports of 800 rapes and attempted rapes and 3,800 incidents of sexual battery at public high schools in 2007-08.
The administration says schools that receive federal funding are obligated to guard against sexual violence and to act swiftly on complaints.
The Education Department confirmed Friday that its Office for Civil Rights was investigating student complaints about sexual harassment at Yale University. The university said it was cooperating with the investigation and takes such allegations seriously.