Friday, April 19, 2013

More Sexual Assault Complaints Filed

On the heels of yesterday's report that 12 students at Swarthmore collaborated on a complaint challenging the inefficiencies of the university's response to sexual assaults on campus, today brings news of an even larger effort to expose similar problems at Occidental College in Los Angeles.  The Department of Education received a complaint against Occidental containing accounts by 37 students and alumni of the college's mishandling reports of sexual assault, including by seeking to deter victims from reporting, dragging out the disciplinary process, and allowing guilty offenders to remain in school.  Several of the students involved in the complaint made public statements yesterday, coming forward about their own experiences in an effort to raise awareness about what is starting to look like a national epidemic of suppression of campus sexual assault.  

In related news, a former high school student in Michigan, represented by the National Women's Law Center, filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday, alleging that the Forest Hills School district in Michigan violated Title IX by responding indifferently to her allegation of sexual assault against a male student athlete in 2010. The lawsuit alleges that school officials sought to deter the victim's parents from reporting the assault to the police (which they did anyway), failed to investigate her claim, delayed changing the alleged attacker's schedule to remove him from the victim's schedules, and failed to protect her from harassment by other students who supported the alleged attacker.  During this time, a second female student complained of an assault by the same male student.  Yet, according to the complaint, the school district failed to investigate that report as well.   Police eventually charged the student with two counts of criminal sexual assault, and the student pled guilty to reduced charges.  Yet the school district's only response was to temporarily suspend him from the basketball team.  The lawsuit seeks damages to compensate the plaintiff for emotional distress, as well as injunctive relief that would require the school district to improve its prevention and response to sexual assault.