Sanders: Schools should stay out of sexual assault

'It is a crime, and it has to be treated as a serious crime'

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) said police should handle cases of campus rape this week—drawing criticism from some victims' advocates.

Speaking at a candidate forum on Monday, Sanders said, "If a student rapes another student, it has got to be understood as a very serious crime, it has to get outside of the school and have a police investigation and that has to take place."

Senators push for police involvement in campus sexual assault cases

"Too many schools now are saying, well, this is a student issue, let's deal with it," Sanders added. "I disagree with that. It is a crime, and it has to be treated as a serious crime."

The remarks quickly drew criticism from some victims' advocates, who made emphasized colleges' and universities' obligation to address campus sexual assault as a civil rights violation under Title IX.  The group Know Your IX tweeted:

Title IX protects against gender discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault,  that prevents women from having equal access to higher education. As such, Title IX requires colleges to take action against sexual assault and harassment on campus.

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As Vox's Libby Nelson explains, campus administrators enforcing Title IX can offer unique help to victims. "The criminal justice system can't rearrange a college student's schedule so she doesn't have to sit next to her rapist. But colleges can," she writes.

And Nelson points out that these campus adjustments can be made quickly, alleviating some of the burden on victims while they wait for the slower-moving criminal justice system (Thomason, "The Ticker," Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/12; Nelson, Vox, 1/12).

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