United States District Court Enjoins Enforcement of Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students; Decision May Impact OCR Guidance on Sexual Violence
August 23, 2016
August 23, 2016
July 8, 2015
As expected, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the “Enough is Enough” legislation into law on July 7, 2015. As a result, the majority of the legislation’s provisions imposing obligations on colleges and universities will become effective 90 days from that date, on October 5, 2015. Of course, institutions can, and likely will want to, make the necessary modifications to their policies, procedures and practices in advance of the effective date, so as to avoid the need to alter processes during the upcoming academic year. The provisions of the legislation requiring biennial campus climate assessments and statistical reports to the New York State Department of Education will become effective in one year, on July 7, 2016. Bond is discussing the legislation’s provisions in detail with our college and university colleagues in our ongoing statewide briefings, and will continue to do so in our Higher Education Law Report blog.
March 30, 2015
In this, our last, post on New York’s proposed sexual violence legislation, we focus briefly on three remaining aspects of the bill: climate surveys, training and implementation. Campus Surveys The legislation requires institutions to conduct a campus climate survey and to conduct such a survey “no less than every other year.” This particular section would go into effect on the 180th day following enactment of the legislation. It would appear that this would require an institution to be ready to go with its first survey at that 180 day mark, or sooner, issuing new surveys not less than every other year thereafter. The legislation provides a list of topics that, at a minimum, must be covered in the survey, including questions aimed at assessing student and employee knowledge about: (1) the role of the Title IX Coordinator; (2) campus policies and procedures addressing sexual assault; (3) how and where to report sexual assault; (4) the availability of resources on and off campus; (5) the prevalence of victimization and perpetration of sexual assault, domestic/dating violence and stalking during a set time period; (6) bystander attitudes and behavior and (7) whether victims/survivors report and the reasons they do/do not report. Needless to say, efforts are to be undertaken to ensure that answers remain anonymous. The survey results are to be published on the institution’s website. The legislation even provides that the survey is not “subject to discovery or [to being] admitted into evidence in a federal or state court proceeding or considered for other purposes in any action for damages brought by a private party” against an institution. It is not entirely clear, however, whether this state legislation would prevent the discovery or other use of this information in a federal proceeding brought under federal law. Training Section 6446 is entitled “Student Onboarding and Ongoing Training.” It provides that an institution must “adopt a comprehensive student onboarding and ongoing education campaign to educate members of the college or university community about sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, in compliance with applicable federal laws ….” This provision suggests that it is not the intent of the state law to require any training not already required by federal law, although the legislation does require training on the specific policies and procedures required by this particular state legislation and as a result may in fact necessitate some training content beyond what is actually required by federal law. In addition, the legislation expressly requires that training occur as part of “onboarding.” It is not yet clear whether that literally means that for new students this training must occur as part of the actual orientation process, or if it can be provided post-orientation. However, from the summary accompanying the legislation, it certainly appears that even if some form of training is literally required during orientation itself, it need not all be provided in that period, and there is recognition that the most effective training happens over a more extended period of time. The legislation also provides that institutions “shall use” multiple methods to educate students. It provides that those methods can include a President’s Welcome messaging, peer theater and peer education programs, online training, social media outreach, first year seminars, course syllabi, faculty teach-ins, and many other options. It appears entirely up to each institution to select what will work best for its community. The legislation requires that institutions provide or expand “specific training to include groups such as international students, students that are also employees, leaders and officers of registered or recognized student organizations, and online and distance education students.” It also calls for “specific training to members of groups identified as likely to engage in high-risk behavior.” Periodic assessment of the institution’s training efforts is also required. Implementation The legislation provides that “the trustees or other governing board of each [institution] shall adopt written rules for implementing all policies required pursuant to this [legislation].” In other words, it is not enough that an institution’s administration responds to the requirements of the legislation, the Board of Trustees itself must “adopt written rules for implementing” the required policies.