Three Ohio Schools Among 55 Facing Federal Sex Assault Probe


UPDATED: Thursday May 1, 2014 11:32 PM

The Education Department on Thursday took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of the 55 colleges and universities currently facing a Title IX investigation over their handling of sexual abuse complaints.

The release came two days after a White House task force promised greater government transparency on sexual assault in higher education. Going forward, the department said, it will keep an updated list of schools facing such an investigation and make it available upon request.

The schools range from big public universities like Ohio State University, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Arizona State University to private schools like Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are also on the list.

The agency previously would confirm such an investigation when asked, but students and others were often unaware of them.

"We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue," Catherine E. Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement.

Lhamon said a school's appearance on the list does not mean that it has violated the law but that an investigation is ongoing.

Title IX prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

In Ohio, those facing the probe include Denison University, Ohio State University, and Wittenberg University.

The Ohio State University released a statement Thursday night saying, "Over the past several years, Ohio State has been partnering with the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on a proactive review of the University's Title IX policies and procedures for combatting student sexual violence and harassment.  Throughout that process, which is now winding down, OCR has consistently reinforced that Ohio State has protocols and resources for combatting sexual harassment, that no major concerns or findings have been identified, and that our protocols could serve as a model for other schools around the country. These proactive efforts are different from complaint-driven investigations included on the list, as Ohio State is not under investigation for any Title IX complaints about sexual harassment or assault.  We have been grateful for our collaboration with the Department and we will vigorously continue work on our shared goal of ensuring a safe and healthy campus climate for our students and for all members of the University community.  The Ohio State University unequivocally shares the Department of Education's interest in protecting our students from sexual harassment and assault and upholding the vitally important aims of Title IX.

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