Thursday, May 01, 2014

UC Berkeley, other elite schools on federal sex assault probe list; thanks goodness the US Dept of Ed hired Catherine Llamon rather than David Loy

Attorney Catherine Llamon, seen with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoza in 2011, is now investigating sexual assaults on colleges

Here's a bit of backstory on the US Dept. of Education's Catherine Llamon:

I'm glad the US Department of Education hired a Los Angeles liberal (Llamon) instead one from my hometown, San Diego.

Southern California lawyer Catherine Llamon worked on the ACLU suit against Los Angeles Unified School District regarding the devastating and unequal impact on the poorest schools of teacher layoffs based only on seniority.

Liberals in San Diego won't challenge the California Teachers Association no matter how badly students are harmed by the status quo in teacher layoff procedures. (May 3, 2014 update: a story that came out today supports my point.)

While Catherine Llamon was fighting for kids in Los Angeles, San Diego ACLU attorney David Loy was regularly rolling over and playing dead as schools and their lawyers abused the rights of students and employees. Did Mr. Loy have a good excuse for his deference to San Diego school districts? His defense for inaction was that layoff policies had not yet actually destroyed schools in San Diego.

Emily Alpert noticed the disparity between LA and San Diego. The intrepid reporter (whose school investigations were halted by Voice of San Diego and who was later fired by Voice of San Diego), wrote an article on March 20, 2011 called, "Why Isn’t That Happening Here?"

Alpert wrote, "Lhamon argues that history or no history, school districts can point to the predictable results of last-in-first-out layoffs...the [San Diego] chapter of the ACLU isn’t raring for a lawsuit and wants to let the school district find other solutions short of litigation."

And now back to the main story of this post.

UC Berkeley, other elite schools on federal sex assault probe list
By Kimberly Hefling
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Education Department on Thursday took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of the 55 colleges and universities facing a Title IX investigation for their handling of sexual abuse complaints, including UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

The release came two days after a White House task force promised greater government transparency on sexual assault in higher education. Going forward, the department said, it will keep an updated list of schools facing such an investigation and make it available upon request.

The schools range from large public universities like UC Berkeley, USC, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to private schools like Occidental College and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are also on the list.

The agency previously would confirm such an investigation when asked -- this newspaper reported on the UC Berkeley investigation last month, and the probes into many of the schools have appeared in news accounts -- but students and others were often unaware of them.

"We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue," Catherine Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement.

Lhamon said a school's appearance on the list does not mean that it has violated the law but that an investigation is ongoing.

Title IX prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

In February, dozens of UC Berkeley students and alumna filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, saying the university mishandled their cases. They said Cal put them and others at risk by inadequately disciplining their alleged assailants. Some said the campus treated them insensitively or kept them in the dark about the outcome of the campus disciplinary process.

Some victims turn to their campuses -- in addition to or instead of -- to the police for protection and justice.

The White House has said that 1 in 5 female students is assaulted. President Barack Obama appointed a task force comprised of his Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about the poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.

The task force announced the creation of a website,, offering resources for victims and information about past enforcement actions on campuses. The task force also made other recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and doing surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses.

The department publicized guidance on Title IX's sexual assault provisions in 2011 and complaints by students have since increased. The department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with the law, but it has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have said noncompliance under the law is "far too common." They say a lack of federal resources is partly to blame, and they've sought more money to ensure timely and proper investigations.

Staff writer Katy Murphy contributed to this story.

No comments: