DOE: Colleges cannot prevent victims from speaking out

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education has decided that universities cannot forbid a sexual assault victim from disclosing to the public the outcome of his or her accused assailant’s student disciplinary proceeding.

Georgetown University forced Kate Dieringer to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that she would not disclose the information to anyone  before it would tell her the outcome of her accused rapist’s campus disciplinary hearing.

In March 2003, Dieringer and the watchdog group Security on Campus filed a complaint with the DOE alleging that the confidentiality policy violated a federal campus safety law.

Responding to the complaint, the DOE on July 16 ordered Georgetown to abandon its policy of withholding the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings to sexual assault victims who do not sign the confidentiality agreement.     

“This first-of-its-kind ruling is a tremendous victory for campus sexual assault victims and student safety,” said S. Daniel Carter, Security on Campus senior vice president. 

“Sexual assault victims will be free to speak with the student press about the disciplinary process on campus, which is something in the past colleges have used nondisclosure agreements and threats to keep victims from doing,” he said. “It’s another step in the road to getting the press the information they need to cover their campus safety issues.”