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Published on February 22nd, 2017 | by Danika Thiele

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Title IX: still a priority

Newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ stance on Title IX may have various implications regarding the application of the law within schools and universities country-wide.

According to politico.com article, the Republican “megadonor” has given $10,000 to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an advocacy group that sued the Obama administration in an effort to raise the standard of proof for victims of sexual assault in collegiate administrative hearings on account of the accused.

The site claims DeVos and her husband have contributed at least $5,000 each in 2012 and 2013, according to financial records, to FIRE. The group prioritizes defending the rights of those accused of campus sexual assault or harassment.

Although the donations are modest compared to the DeVos’s vast political and charitable giving, the act raises red flags for both women’s groups and Democrats.

In 2011, the Education Department published guidance encouraging colleges and universities to use a lower standard for disciplinary hearings than that of criminal prosecutions, which require the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for sexual assault.

Critics of the Obama administration claim the current laws make it too easy for false rape accusations to lead to expulsion, and so FIRE contends that the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights “has taken a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach, and it has managed to empty more than a few magazines before being challenged about whether it is even allowed to do so,” according to a lawsuit filed by the group last year in support of a former University of Virginia student who was found guilty of sexual assault under the preponderance of evidence standard.

According to npr.org, DeVos said in her hearing that it would be “premature” to say that she would uphold the current department guidance encouraging universities to take an active role against sexual assault.

In response to Devos’s statement, Florida Southern’s Title IX Officer Katherine Pawlak says she is confident the school will always comply with the requirements of the law by handling every Title IX-related incident on a case-by-case basis and applying practices that fairly support those involved.

The application of Title IX will remain a priority at Florida Southern.

“The college has a genuine concern for the safety of our students, employees and campus community in its entirety,” Pawlak said. “The Sexual Respect and Awareness Committee is comprised of volunteer faculty, staff and students who have a passion, and compassion, for eliminating sexual assault on college campuses. Amanda Blount and I both also participate in several continuing education programs throughout the year, every year, to ensure we are staying on top of the most current issues for our students.”

According to Pawlak, Florida Southern will continue making lengthy strides in furthering the understanding and application of Title IX.

The college’s office of accountability, education and compliance holds at least one program a month designed specifically to educate students on Title IX. Guest speakers, Just Asktival, Women’s Advocacy Club and educational sessions are all components of the school’s Title IX compliance.

Florida Southern also offers free confidential counseling for victims of a Title IX violation, can assist students in evaluating if they need or want medical attention, connect students with local victims’ advocacy resources and even accompany a student in filing a police report.

“Those of us involved are proud of Florida Southern’s program and our campus community’s interest in helping to further its outreach to students,” Pawlak said.  “One of the biggest successes of our Title IX-related efforts is the increase in students’ knowledge that they do have a place to go, here at Florida Southern, to help them through any ordeal. The college has and will always have a genuine concern for the safety of all its members.”

 

Learn more:

VIEW: The #DearBetsy Twitter campaign

WATCH: Devos’ confirmation hearing

READ: All about “Just Ask”

READ: More about Title IX

READ: More about Devos’s confirmation hearings

READ: A significant shift on sexual assault

 

Students who wish to report a Title IX violation like sexual misconduct, violence and assault can email Amanda Blount, Florida Southern’s student support Title IX intake team’s director of accountability, education and compliance, at fscjustask@flsouthern.edu. Amanda Blount can be reached Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in her office on the second floor of the Rogers Building and can be reached by phone at 863-680-6221.

The Assistant Director Scott Gill-Jacobson is also available at 863-680-6216 or sgilljacobson@flsouthern.edu, also on the second floor of the Rogers Building. Students can learn more information, including filing a report, anonymously or not, at http://www.flsouthern.edu/policies/just-ask.aspx.

“Just Ask” is the College’s campaign to bring awareness and provide education on sexual violence and assault on campus.

 

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