Governor Brown Needs a Reality Check About Sexual Harassment at Colleges

Law Firm Newswire




Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) December 1, 2015 – Sexual harassment/assault in the workplace or a college milieu is illegal. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a California bill that would have mandated a minimum two-year suspension for students found guilty of sexual assault on college campuses, saying instead that such matters should be addressed not by the government but by the campus disciplinary process.

It has taken years for the allegations of sexual harassment and assault victims on campuses across the nation to finally be heard in a way that has garnered enough attention to make changes to university and college policies regarding such violations. In California, there was a firestorm of media attention focused on local colleges and universities for not appropriately dealing with sexual assault/harassment cases. Such matters were swiftly swept under the carpet, and often the perpetrator remained on campus where a victim could see them daily.

“A completely unacceptable state of affairs,” said respected sexual harassment attorney Deborah Barron. “No one has the right to force themselves on an unwilling individual who is not interested in his or her advances. Forcing someone into having sex without their consent is never acceptable.”

Other mandates proposed by the bill included punishments such as the loss of financial aid and scholarships and possible expulsion. California Assemblyman Das Williams provided information that indicated one in five females is a victim of sexual assault, and less than five percent report the violation to police.

“It looked like the bill might make it, until the Governor vetoed it, suggesting educational institutions are in a far better position to figure out appropriate punishment, and the bill could stifle them from using better judgment in dealing with such matters,” said Barron. “But if these institutions had better judgement to deal with such inflammatory issues, the situation likely would not have blown up in the first place.”

Giving only universities and colleges the power to decide what disciplinary measures are appropriate to deal with sexual harassment/assault is like having the fox guard the hen house. They blew it the first time; why give them a second chance to do it again?

All educational institutions receiving federal funding must comply with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibits schools from discriminating on the basis of sex. Under such terms, sexual harassment and assault fall under a form of sexual discrimination that schools are legally bound to address through adopting procedures that respond to complaints filed by students. Institutions in violation of Title IX may face fines or the federal government may withhold federal funds.

In 2014, there were 55 educational institutions under investigation for violating Title IX. Now there are more than 140. “It is time for a reality check. If the government does not do something to force colleges to deal with sexual harassment/assault, the problem will continue to grow. The numbers speak for themselves,” Barron said.

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