The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a 16 year old girl who was sexually assaulted while on a college recruitment overnight does not have grounds to sue the university under Title IX because at the time of her assault she was not a student enrolled at the school.

On her soccer recruitment trip to Culver-Stockton College, the girl, known as KT, was given alcohol and sexually assaulted by a male student. When she reported the assault to the school, administrators responded by canceling a scheduled meeting they had set up with KT and her parents to discuss her future at the college. The college then did nothing to further address the assault.

But in the case of KT v Culver-Stockton College, the appeals court upheld the ruling of the federal district court in saying that an individual only has the right to sue under Title IX if both they and the perpetrator attend the same educational institution. If this misguided ruling stands, any visitor on a campus would have no expectation of protection against gender based discrimination under Title IX.

Yet the language of Title IX contradicts the court’s ruling, as it was written intentionally broad so as to bar all actions, carried out on the basis of sex, that hinder educational activity. In the April 2015 Title IX Resource Guide, the Obama administration stated that Title IX protects not just students, but also “employees, applicants for admission and employment, and other persons from all forms of sex discrimination.”

In her suit, KT also argues that the college should have taken steps to protect 16-year-old recruits from potential sexual assault, yet the court determined that the college was not responsible for creating a preventative environment for KT as they had no evidence that such assaults had previously taken place, despite the epidemic rates of rape on all college campuses.

While KT can appeal to the Supreme Court, many education equity advocates believe the Trump administration is unlikely to support her in her push for justice. In July, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with men’s rights activists to discuss dismantling Title IX enforcement guidelines that combat campus sexual assault. Candice Jackson, the deputy assistant secretary for the department’s office of civil rights, recently made a blatantly false accusation that 90 percent of people who report sexual assaults have not really been raped. Jackson, who has yet to apologized, has also called the women who accused President Trump of sexual assault “fake victims.”

More than 100 survivors recently wrote a letter to DeVos urging her to protect survivors, writing, “From the moment we were raped or assaulted, the question of who protects us has haunted us all. Collectively, we represent thousands of instances of institutional failure at colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. We suffered immensely, as did our academics, relationships, and overall well-being. Institutional betrayal forced many of us, and countless others, to leave school.”

One in five women and one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of survivors never report the attack.

Media Resources:  Rewire 8/4/17; Department of Education 04/2015; Feminist Majority Foundation 7/19/17.

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