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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
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~ In letter with 19 fellow state attorneys general, Herring urges Secretary DeVos to maintain the Department of Education's commitment to protecting students, engage with AGs on ways to do even more ~

RICHMOND (July 19, 2017)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined his fellow state attorneys general in writing to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urging her to maintain the Department of Education's commitment to protecting college and university students from sexual violence on campuses. The Attorneys General also called on Secretary DeVos to work collaboratively with them to ensure that members of university communities can live, learn, and work free from the fear of sexual violence. In 2015, Attorney General Herring chaired Gov. Terry McAuliffe's Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, which developed 21 policy recommendations that helped make Virginia a national leader in the movement to end campus sexual violence.


"Campus sexual violence deserves more serious and respectful consideration than we've seen from Secretary DeVos's department in recent weeks," said Attorney General Herring. "Gov. McAuliffe, our colleges and universities, and I are working each and every day to prevent sexual violence and turn the page on a time when it was not treated with the seriousness it deserves. Comments like those from Secretary DeVos's staff and an equivocal commitment to maintaining protections for our students makes that job even harder. Blaming survivors or using alcohol to excuse sexual assault is unbelievably uninformed and disrespectful and has no place in a serious discussion about making our colleges and universities safer. Our students and schools are counting on the Department of Education to be partners in creating safe, welcoming learning environments."


The Attorneys General's letter was prompted by recent indications that the Department of Education might be planning to step back from its recent work to help universities prevent and respond appropriately to reports of sexual violence.  Of particular concern were comments from Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson, who claimed that 90 percent of campus sexual assault allegations "fall into the category of 'we were both drunk,' 'we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'"


The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, on average, 20.5 percent of college women had experienced sexual assault since entering college, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five women experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes. Moreover, the vast majority of these incidents go unreported.


Attorney General Herring has worked with Virginia's colleges and universities, victim advocates, students and law enforcement to transform the way the Commonwealth works to prevent and respond to sexual violence while chairing Gov. McAuliffe's Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, which spent more than six months developing policy recommendations in five areas:

  • Engaging Our Campuses and Communities in Comprehensive Prevention
  • Minimizing Barriers to Reporting
  • Cultivating a Coordinated and Trauma-Informed Response:
  • Sustaining and Improving Campus Policies and Ensuring Compliance
  • Institutionalizing the Work of the Task Force and Fostering Ongoing Collaborations

Today's letter reaffirmed the Attorneys General's commitment to working collaboratively with Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to address the problem of sexual assault, including suggesting the Secretary engage with a bipartisan group of Attorneys General and other stakeholders to discuss collaboration.

In addition to Attorney General Herring, the other 19 Attorneys General signing on to the letter to Secretary DeVos are: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, and Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan.


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