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sexual assault

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Grosso leads Council comments opposed to Trump Administration's proposed Title IX changes

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter signed by every member of the Council of the District of Columbia, to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title IX enforcement for failing to properly address the realities of sexual harassment and assault in schools.

“As local elected officials, including the chairperson of the D.C. Council Committee on Education, we support a robust oversight role by the Department and we look to the Department to set the bar for ourselves and other jurisdictions in protecting our students,” the Councilmembers wrote. “The proposed rules would restrict our ability to build upon the floor that federal laws and rules should allow, thereby undermining your goal of providing greater control over these decisions to local communities.”

Last year, Grosso introduced and the Council unanimously passed the School Safety Act, which requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. The act also increases the requirements of what efforts D.C. Public Schools and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students.

Councilmembers expressed their concerns that changes to Title IX could undermine this work, including its ability to address off-campus incidents which have on-campus effects.

“We heard consistently from schools, students and parents, and experts about the need for schools to be able to respond to incidents of abuse or harassment that happen outside of school hours or off-campus,” Councilmembers wrote, referencing testimony they heard in considering the school safety legislation. “This could include online harassment or an abuse near school that significantly disrupts students’ ability to learn. The proposed rules would contradict this by requiring schools to dismiss a complaint if the alleged conduct “did not occur within the [school’s] program or activity.”

The Council also raised concerns over language that forces schools to ignore harassment until it becomes incredibly severe, raise the bar on what is considered “deliberate indifference” to complaints of misconduct, and allow parochial schools greater freedom in claiming religious exemptions from fulfilling their Title IX responsibilities.

“Taken together, these proposed rules represent a serious misstep in the ongoing effort to address safety and stop discrimination in education. We ask that you withdraw the proposed rulemaking and reconsider the best way to ensure safety for students,” the Councilmembers concluded.

You can read the full letter below and here.

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Judiciary Committee advances legislation to help sexual abuse survivors heal

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Judiciary Committee advances legislation to help sexual abuse survivors heal

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), member of the Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety, on the committee’s approval of the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018 which incorporates pieces of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act, a measure Grosso introduced in 2015 and 2017:

“For over a decade, the Council has considered some form of legislation meant to help childhood survivors of sexual abuse heal from the trauma of their experience. Today, we finally advanced legislation that will allow those survivors to seek justice and recompense and further hold the individuals who perpetrate these atrocities accountable.

“I originally introduced the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act because I believe there are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children. The experience of sexual violence as a child is one that endures for ages.  Most survivors do not come forward until well into adulthood, suffering for years with depression, feelings of guilt and sometimes difficulty forming intimate relationships. 

“I applaud the expansion in the legislation we have approved today which allows an individual to file a civil suit to recover damages for any sexual abuse – not just acts of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was a minor.

“The recent spate of high-profile cases involving allegations of and convictions for sexual abuse underscore the pervasiveness of sexual assault in America. The prevalence of these incidences, across every sector, from the Catholic Church to as far reaching as the Office of the President of the United States, defies the word "problem." This is an epidemic, and what we've come to realize is that American culture has and continues to reinforce the normalization of sexual violence. Far too often, survivors of sexual violence are let down by the justice system.

“While this bill is not a panacea, it will go a long way to encourage and empower victims to come forward and know that a fair and just system is in place to help them right wrongs and begin to heal.

“As policymakers, we have to ensure that every available option is afforded to those who have been harmed and this legislation will allow the many courageous survivors across the city to seek justice under the law. I want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen and his staff for the time and effort that has been dedicated to advancing this measure to mark-up. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation when it comes before the full Council.”

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