Friday, July 08, 2016

Minot State Ignored Sexual Assault By Professor, OCR Finds

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announced yesterday that it has reached a resolution agreement with Minot State University in North Dakota after finding that the institution violated Title IX in its response to reports of sexual assault. In particular, the university did not investigate or address a complaint made by a former student that she had been sexually assaulted by a professor for over two years. In addition, OCR's investigation found that overall only one of four complaints of sexual harassment reported to campus security officers actually led to a campus Title IX investigation.

My impression is that Minot State's violations of Title IX are among the most egregious findings that OCR has made in recent years. As opposed to procedural and policy violations of Title IX that have been found in other cases (e.g., here, here, and here), here the university outright ignored an egregious complaint. It is easy to imagine the injury this caused to to the reporting former student, as well as the significant risk to other students that the university created when it decided not to act. In combination with the pattern of under-investigating complaints made to campus security, it is clear that the university's policies and practices contributed to students' risk of sexual assault.

Under the resolution agreement with OCR, the university is obligated to provide counseling and other support that would address any emotional, psychological, academic, or employment issues" faced by the complaining student as a result of the university’s delay in processing her complaint.  Additionally, the university must develop a procedure to document sexual assault and harassment complaints it receives, strengthen coordination between the campus police and Title IX coordinator, enhance its grievance procedures, and submit to ongoing monitoring by the OCR.