Education Department touts cost-saving measures of unchecked sexual assault

Education Department touts cost-saving measures of unchecked sexual assault

There’s a new report out by The New York Times about the Education Department’s own analysis about the impact of the new guidelines the agency will likely implement around sexual violence in education under Title IX. They found that rolling back regulations would save schools millions of dollars by investigating sexual violence less often.

The department projected that colleges and universities currently conduct an average of 1.18 sexual harassment investigations each per year, and that under the new rule, the figure would fall to 0.72 investigations per year, a decline of 39 percent. There are about 6,000 colleges and universities nationwide.

While the average number of Title IX investigations is not tracked at the elementary and secondary school level, the department drew data on sexual harassment episodes from its most recent civil rights data collection to conclude that the school districts currently investigate an average of 3.23 episodes per year. That rate, they estimated, would decrease to 1.61 under the new rules, a decline of 50 percent. There are about 17,000 elementary and secondary school districts.

The new guidelines unequivocally aim to reduce schools’ liabilities in reprimanding a student who assaults another—and trying to make it seem less horrendous because it saves schools money. 

The Education Department is trying to act like punishing assailants is mutually exclusive to supporting survivors. While it costs money to provide services, how valuable are they to a survivor who has to deal with the intimidation and fear of sharing a school with their assailant?

The analysis also accounts for new costs that colleges and districts could incur. Although schools are not required to investigate every complaint, a Title IX coordinator is still required to respond to reports and provide support to victims, which the department anticipates will cost about $5 million. The rules require schools to offer victims a range of “supportive measures,” even if they choose not to file a formal complaint, such as counseling, changes in housing and other efforts that are devised to help them continue their education.

The number of times a school even investigates rape is extremely low, but DeVos and pals want to make it lower. This essentially is trying to go back into the times where people didn’t turn to their schools for any help because they knew it was useless. When survivors think justice is possible, they speak up. When it’s clear there’s no real interest in holding assailants accountable and to denounce the abuse they endure, many more survivors remain silent.

With this goal, the Education Department is basically saying that saving money is more important than preventing the lifelong trauma of assault and institutional betrayal. Schools can more easily expel someone for plagiarizing their homework than raping their classmate. What does that teach our kids about the value of human beings?

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons. Originally written for Daily Kos.

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