US Schools Under Pressure to Deal With Sexual Violence

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Federal officials in the United States are telling schools that they need to do a better job of preventing sexual violence and helping victims.

The Obama administration has released the first guidance on how schools should deal with the problem under a nineteen seventy-two law. That law is known as Title Nine. It bars discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

The Department of Education says sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment of students which violates Title Nine.

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the University of New Hampshire to announce the new efforts. Secretary Duncan says the problem has not received enough attention.

ARNE DUNCAN: "Sexual violence is one of those issues we all wish didn’t exist. And too often, our society has chosen to ignore it, rather than confronting it openly and honestly. And that denial must end. Every school would like to believe it's immune from sexual violence, but the facts suggest otherwise."

A study found that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. About six percent of male college students say they have also been victims.

Mr. Duncan said that by some estimates, more than one in ten high school girls are physically forced to have sex in or out of school. He said the numbers are probably low because many sex crimes are never reported.

In one recent school year, public schools reported eight hundred rapes or attempted rapes and almost four thousand other cases of sexual violence.

The Education Department has written a nineteen-page letter to all school systems, colleges and universities that accept federal money. It explains requirements for them under Title Nine in dealing with sexual violence. These include making sure victims know their rights and are kept informed about the progress of the investigation. Schools must also protect victims from suspects who may still be in school with them.

Secretary Duncan says police and prosecutors have their job to do, but schools also share responsibility under federal civil rights laws. Investigations of sexual violence often take too long, he says, and the victims are not taken seriously. Victims are more likely to do poorly in school, get depressed and abuse drugs and alcohol.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. We'll have more on this subject next week. You can find links to information about dealing with sexual violence in schools at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also post comments on our website and on the VOA Learning English page on Facebook. I'm Christopher Cruise.

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