Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Update in Montana Case

Here is an update on the complaint filed against the University of Montana charging that it has violated Title IX by failing to properly handle numerous incidents of sexual violence against female students, including many involving members of the football team.  The complaint was filed with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, as we noted in a previous post.  This week it was announced that the Department of Justice will be conducting an investigation. As reported by Reuters,

The Justice Department probe will examine the inner workings of the university's public safety office, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney's Office.
Additionally, the department will review whether the university is complying with federal laws specifically barring sex discrimination, defined as including sexual assault and sexual harassment, in education programs, officials said.
The Department of Justice has wider jurisdiction than the Department of Education, which allows it to conduct a more comprehensive investigation that is not limited to the University, but to local law enforcement as well.  Such a comprehensive investigation, which as far as I know is unprecedented for addressing campus sexual violence, seems warranted in this case due to the arguably widespread incidents of rape in the community and on campus. The police received 80 reports of rape in the last three years, and 11 incidents involving students have come to light.  Investigating both the university and the local police together will provide unique insight into how those two entities handle related and overlapping jurisdiction when it comes to protecting students and disciplining offenders.