Colleges should not retaliate against students who raise a civil rights complaint – either with an individual institution or with the federal government – The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent out last week. “Discriminatory practices are often only raised and remedied when students, parents, teachers, coaches, and others can report such practices to school administrators without the fear of retaliation,” the letter reads. “Individuals should be commended when they raise concerns about compliance with the Federal civil rights laws, not punished for doing so.”
In February, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student said the campus judicial filed charges against her after she spoke out about her rape and what she said was a flawed Honor Court hearing. Administrators initially said they couldn’t intervene because the court is student-run, but UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp suspended the proceedings the following month when the student filed a federal complaint alleging retaliation.
It’s been a little over two years since OCR began cracking down on sexual assault with a dear colleague letter reminding colleges of their responsibilities to address the issue under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. In recent months, students have filed Title IX complaints regarding sexual discrimination and subsequent mistreatment by their universities at a handful of institutions, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Occidental College and Swarthmore University.