Is The DOJ Looking To Create A Campus Sex Offender Registry?
UPDATE: A representative from the SMART office responded to a Daily Wire inquiry and insisted that the information collected would not be used to create a sex offender registry for college students, despite concerns. The representative said the department was just collecting information on the policies and procedures used at various colleges and universities, and assured The Daily Wire this information would not be shared with other departments or agencies.
A curious notice appeared earlier this month on the Federal Register. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to collect information from colleges and universities regarding their policies and practices for sexual misconduct.
Specifically, the DOJ’s Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office is the one seeking this information, and is responsible guiding states and territories on the implementation of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 which authorized the creation of the office. SMART “also tracks important legislative and legal developments related to sex offenders and administers grant programs related to the registration, notification, and management of sex offenders,” according to its website.
It’s that last part that has some concerned. When this office is requesting campus information, one could think it is looking to create a campus sex offender registry.
“This project will collect information about current policies and practices utilized by colleges and universities regarding registered sex offenders who may be students or employees; individuals found responsible and sanctioned for campus sexual misconduct policy violations; and the review of criminal or disciplinary sexual misconduct history of prospective or current students,” the notice states.
The collection is called the Campus Information Sharing and Response project and will provide an online questionnaire to some 50 respondents from “business or other for profit institutions of higher education, and not-for-profit institutions.” The questionnaire is estimated to take only 15 minutes to complete.
If — and this is a big if, because the DOJ contact person has not responded yet to a Daily Wire inquiry — this information is used to create some kind of campus sex offender registry, it would be an incredibly dangerous tool. There are already enough problems with sex offender registrations; add into that the poor training, political agendas, and low standard of evidence used in campus procedures, and you’re looking at a registry filled with students who had consensual sex but for various reasons — spite, jealousy, regret — were accused of sexual assault, and some legitimate perpetrators.
If we could guarantee the process to determine whether an accused student is truly a danger, this list wouldn’t be so bad. But right now, students are being accused for consensual sex, and non-victims are being made to feel like they’re victims. And despite Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ steps to right the due process concerns on college campuses, as well as a few others in her agency, we do not know the political leanings of others in the department. Many are holdovers from the Obama administration, which weaponized accusations in order to appeal to women.
If the DOJ uses the information to create a registry, it would deny accused students who are unfairly found responsible the ability to further their education, and possibly their careers.
Before anyone gets too worried, remember this is all a big "if." We don't know the reason the DOJ's SMART office is collecting this information.