UNC-Chapel Hill makes federal list of schools under investigation for sexual assaults

McClatchy Washington BureauMay 1, 2014 

Snow covers the Old Well on UNC Chapel Hill's campus on Wednesday morning, January 29, 2014.

MORGAN MCCLOY — mmccloy@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

The Department of Education on Thursday for the first time issued a list of the colleges and universities that are under investigation for violations of the federal civil rights law for their handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

There are 55 schools in 27 states and the District of Columbia on the list, including UNC-Chapel Hill and Greensboro's Guilford College.

The identities of the schools largely had been kept confidential. The department’s Office for Civil Rights posted some complaints it is investigating, and the resolution of some of the cases it closed, but many hadn’t been made public.

The new disclosure comes as the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault took steps this week to help college students understand how to report campus rapes and sexual assaults and put out new public service announcements calling for students to respect the need for consent.

The Education Department said it would update the list regularly, but it didn’t plan to make its updates public on its website. It said it would provide them to those who made a request to the Office for Civil Rights. Officials won’t give information about individual cases.

“We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in the release. "We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the list provides transparency about the department’s work to curb campus assaults and raises public awareness.

But he said the department “needs to do better in bringing justice to student survivors by thoroughly and rapidly investigating these crimes.”

Blumenthal and other senators plan to introduce legislation later this year aimed at reducing campus sexual assaults. The Connecticut senator said his bill would “give the Department of Education additional enforcement tools it needs to bring schools that mishandle sexual assault cases into compliance with Title IX more swiftly.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment or sexual violence, in educational programs that receive federal funds.

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