TI­TLE IX VI­O­LA­TIONS:

School failed to ad­dress sex­ual as­saults, ha­rass­ment, Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment says

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger ywenger@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/yvon­newenger

Frost­burg State Univer­sity vi­o­lated fed­eral law in its han­dling of sex­ual as­sault com­plaints, in­clud­ing a re­port that a stu­dent was sex­u­ally as­saulted by a cam­pus po­lice of­fi­cer, the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said Fri­day.

Frost­burg State Univer­sity vi­o­lated fed­eral law in its han­dling of sex­ual as­sault com­plaints, in­clud­ing a re­port that a stu­dent was sex­u­ally as­saulted by a cam­pus po­lice of­fi­cer, the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said Fri­day.

A civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the agency faulted the univer­sity for “fail­ing to promptly and eq­ui­tably re­spond to com­plaints of sex­ual vi­o­lence.” The probe, which re­viewed 40 in­ci­dents over five years, de­ter­mined that Frost­burg was in vi­o­la­tion of Ti­tle IX, the fed­eral gen­der equal­ity law.

The Al­le­gany County school has agreed to set new stan­dards for in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­leged sex­ual vi­o­lence and reg­u­larly train stu­dents, fac­ulty, ad­min­is­tra­tors and staff on Ti­tle IX re­quire­ments, univer­sity and fed­eral of­fi­cials said.

Frost­burg “has built a com­pre­hen­sive pro­gram to re­spond to and pre­vent sex­ual vi­o­lence,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the univer­sity. “It is con­tin­u­ously im­prov­ing upon this pro­gram with a goal of en­sur­ing that FSU is a safe, re­spect­ful and in­clu­sive com­mu­nity for all.”

The univer­sity has nearly 6,000 stu­dents. A third of its un­der­grad­u­ates are from Bal­ti­more and its sub­urbs.

More than 200 col­leges na­tion­wide are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for their re­sponse to al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, Mor­gan State Univer­sity, Mount St. Mary’s Univer­sity, St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land and the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion at UMBC came af­ter a com­plaint that the univer­sity mis­han­dled a 2015 sex­ual as­sault case on its cam­pus. Ac­cord­ing to the stu­dent’s at­tor­ney, univer­sity of­fi­cials dis­cour­aged the stu­dent from re­port­ing the in­ci­dent to Bal­ti­more County po­lice af­ter the stu­dent was al­legedly drugged, raped and beaten.

The univer­sity found the al­leged as­sailant, a fel­low stu­dent, not at fault dur­ing a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing, the at­tor­ney said.

The spate of in­ves­ti­ga­tions is in re­sponse to an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion task force that re­leased guide­lines in 2014 on how uni­ver­si­ties should han­dle sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions. Col­leges are re­quired un­der Ti­tle IX to re­spond to claims of sex­ual as­sault the same as they would other forms of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. Fail­ing to do so can re­sult in a loss of fed­eral fund­ing.

Cather­ine E. Lha­mon, the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment’s as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for civil rights, said Frost­burg and its lead­er­ship have shown a com­mit­ment to “mak­ing changes to sat­isfy Ti­tle IX, work­ing to en­sure that all Frost­burg stu­dents can learn free from sex­ual vi­o­lence.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Frost­burg was launched af­ter two stu­dents filed com­plaints. The Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment de­ter­mined that Frost­burg failed “to end the sex­u­ally hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment for the two stu­dents.” In the case of the cam­pus po­lice of­fi­cer ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault, the of­fi­cer ul­ti­mately pleaded guilty, of­fi­cials said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that univer­sity staff mem­bers re­quired to re­port such com­plaints did not take ac­tion af­ter be­ing no­ti­fied of an al­leged rape. And Ti­tle IX in­ves­ti­ga­tions were not launched due to im­proper re­liance on lo­cal or cam­pus po­lice, of­fi­cials said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also said the univer­sity did not do enough to safe­guard a vic­tim af­ter re­peated vi­o­la­tions of a no-con­tact or­der. In one case of al­leged as­sault, the par­ties in­volved waited nearly 10 months for the univer­sity to is­sue a de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Frost­burg of­fi­cials said that they agreed to ad­dress rec­om­men­da­tions by the civil rights of­fice but that they were not ad­mit­ting fault. In ad­di­tion to the train­ing and new in­ves­ti­ga­tion stan­dards, the univer­sity hired a full-time Ti­tle IX co­or­di­na­tor in Jan­uary 2015.

Of­fi­cials said the univer­sity will now use the cor­rect “pre­pon­der­ance of the ev­i­dence” stan­dard to in­ves­ti­gate sex­ual as­sault and vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions. Frost­burg also will pub­lish an anti-ha­rass­ment state­ment, cre­ate an anony­mous tip line and en­hance its out­reach pro­ce­dures.

Frost­burg also will re­im­burse the two com­plainants for ex­penses for coun­sel­ing, aca­demic and ther­apy ser­vices.

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