Feds reach agreement with Wittenberg U. on sexual assault complaints

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Wittenberg student faces multiple rape charges

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Both cases involved student athletes, one at event sponsored by athletic department

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has reached an agreement with Wittenberg University after finding that the university’s handling of complaints arising from reports of sexual assault violated federal law.

RELATED: Wittenberg still on federal sexual assault investigation list

The probe, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, was based on complaints filed in July 2011 and April 2013, alleging that the university failed to respond promptly and equitably to reports that the students had been sexually assaulted.

RELATED: Special Report: Assault on campus

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

The agreement, for the first time, indicates both sexual assaults involved student athletes and one occurred at “a party hosted by members of a University athletics team.”

“While the oral discussions with OCR over the past six years provided no indication of the vast majority of the matters addressed in this letter, and while we disagree with the findings and could have continued to pursue our position with OCR, we wanted to do what was in the best interest of Wittenberg,” Casey Gill, dean of students and Title IX coordinator at Wittenberg University, said in a statement.

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Britta Carson just graduated from Wittenberg and completed her senior thesis, “Talk about assault, ” promoting sexual assault awareness and discussions through a poster and “graffiti” campaign on campus. Bill Lackey/Staff

Britta Carson just graduated from Wittenberg and completed her senior thesis, “Talk about assault, ” promoting sexual assault awareness and discussions through a poster and “graffiti” campaign on campus. Bill Lackey/Staff

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Britta Carson just graduated from Wittenberg and completed her senior thesis, “Talk about assault, ” promoting sexual assault awareness and discussions through a poster and “graffiti” campaign on campus. Bill Lackey/Staff

“We therefore agreed to the resolution we negotiated with OCR. The OCR investigation team requested some minor, technical changes to the way our policies are written, which we will address immediately. This resolution concludes a process that began in 2011, and we are grateful to be able to move forward.”

RELATED: Download the settlement agreement

The federal investigation included reviewing the university’s policies and procedures, reviewing more than three years of files maintained by the university in its investigation of Title IX complaints and conducting on-site visits and interviews of students and university staff.

RELATED: Download the letter resolving the case

Following its investigation, the federal office found that the university’s violations of Title IX included failing to have policies and procedures that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints, to treat students equitably when responding to complaints, and to provide a notice of nondiscrimination that is compliant with Title IX.

The decision was announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Under the terms of the Agreement, the University will:

• Review the complaints of rape the University received from academic year 2010-2011 through fall semester 2013 to determine whether the University responded promptly and equitably and take appropriate remedial steps to correct any violations.

• Review all complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence the University received from spring semester 2014 through academic year 2015-2016 to determine whether the University responded promptly and equitably and take appropriate remedial steps to correct any identified violations.

• Submit to OCR for review documents pertaining to the University’s handling of complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence for academic years 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019.

• Revise the University’s Title IX policies and procedures to ensure that they provide for the prompt and equitable processing of complaints of sex discrimination, and revise the University’s website, publications, and other materials for addressing complaints of sex discrimination.

• Ensure that the University annually assesses the effectiveness of its efforts to address sex discrimination, and ensure that the University maintains sufficient records with respect to complaints received under Title IX.

• Continue to provide annual training regarding the University’s obligations pursuant to Title IX to members of the University community, including instruction on how to conduct adequate, reliable and impartial investigations and the right of students to pursue simultaneously a criminal charge with law enforcement and a Title IX complaint with the University.

• Offer to reimburse Student A and Student B for counseling services for a period of up to one year, capped at $2,000 each.

• Publish a notice of nondiscrimination that is compliant with Title IX.

Source: US. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights

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