Washington Law Review

Comment

The Failings of Title IX for Survivors of Sexual Violence: Utilizing Restorative Justice on College Campuses

December 20, 2019 | 94 Wash. L. Rev. 2085

Abstract:  Universities should adopt restorative justice practices to serve the legal and personal needs of student survivors of sexual violence. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. Since 1997, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has issued “Dear Colleague Letters” to federally funded institutions to assist with Title IX compliance and implement procedures for complaints of sexual violence. In 2011, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali under the Obama administration issued a Dear Colleague Letter, which expanded protections for survivors. However, it prohibited the use of mediation to resolve claims of sexual violence and raised concerns regarding the rights of students accused of committing sexual violence.

In 2018, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, under the Trump administration, proposed a new Dear Colleague Letter that threatened the rights of many survivors on campuses. However, this new guidance also created the opportunity for universities to hold students accused of sexual violence accountable by allowing informal resolution practices, including restorative justice. Restorative justice is a process through which the harmed party, offender, and affected community come together to discuss the harm that occurred and find ways to repair the harm. This Comment proposes that universities take advantage of DeVos’s new Dear Colleague Letter and implement restorative justice practices to give survivors another option to heal and find justice.
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