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Four Colorado schools under federal sex assault investigation

photo - The University of Colorado Boulder. (AP photo) + caption
The University of Colorado Boulder. (AP photo)
By Debbie Kelley Updated: May 1, 2014 at 7:06 pm 0

Four Colorado universities are among 55 schools nationwide that are facing federal investigation over their handling of sexual abuse complaints, but none are in the Pikes Peak region.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights released a list of colleges and universities on Thursday with pending possible violations of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding, including handling of sexual violence cases.

While the University of Colorado campuses in Boulder and Denver are included, the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs is not.

"UCCS is ahead of the curve on a lot of the recent recommendations from the federal government," said spokesman Tom Hutton.

Also on the list from Colorado are two private institutions: the University of Denver and Regis University, which is run by Catholic Jesuits.

Nationwide, the schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools such as Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. The Ivy League schools of Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth also appear.

This is the first time the federal government has released such information, on the heels of an Obama administration task force calling earlier this week for more transparency on the issue. The government is emphasizing that the list constitutes investigations of complaints, not judgments. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there was "absolutely zero presumption" of guilt.

CU Boulder expected to be among the schools named, said Bronson Hilliard, vice chancellor of media relations, because last July the campus was notified it was the subject of a Title IX investigation. In response, Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced the campus would commission an external review of all the university's Title IX procedures, policies and resources. A Philadelphia law firm, Pepper Hamilton, conducted the review and issued a report in January.

"The report found we were in full compliance with federal law," Hilliard said.

It also recommended that the CU Boulder hire a campus-wide Title IX director.

"We are in the process of doing that, and we expect to have that person on sometime in late summer," Hilliard said.

The director will oversee all Title IX compliance efforts on the campus, including education and complaints.

"We are committed to ending sexual assault on campus, educating our campus on sexual assault issues and taking more actions going into the future based on what the director recommends," Hilliard said.

"The number of schools on the list both in Colorado and across the nation gives you a sense of the seriousness of the problem, and it's up to all of us in public institutions to do what we can to end sexual assault, properly investigate and be in full Title IX compliance."

DU is included because of one claim filed from an individual, said spokesman Will Jones, and the university responded to the matter three months ago.

"No determination has been made by them as of this date," he said in an email response.

"The University of Denver takes all matters of this manner seriously. University officials handle any and all claims involving Title IX or similar laws fairly and judicially, and the Department of Education makes a final determination on the outcome," Jones stated.

DU has a "zero tolerance" regarding discrimination on and off campus, he said.

Regis University also released a statement, saying it has one complaint pending before the Office of Civil Rights, stemming from an alleged incident in 2011.

"Regis University takes the complaint seriously and has responded appropriately," said spokeswoman Cindy Matthews. "The safety and well-being of our students and staff are a top priority."

On Tuesday, a White House task force dedicated to reducing sexual assault on college campuses released recommendations of steps to take to identify the scope of the problem, help prevent campus sexual assault, improve school response to reported assaults and make more transparent the federal government's enforcement efforts.

On Jan. 22, the Obama administration established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, to combat what some consider to be an epidemic that has resulted in Title IX complaints and lawsuits against universities across the country.

One in five women is sexually assaulted while attending college, according to the task force, which is recommending schools be provided with a toolkit to conduct a campus climate survey.

The task force launched new website this week, www.NotAlone.gov, with a host of information, including enforcement data, hotline numbers, student rights and research.

Other task force recommendations include providing specialized training for school officials, helping schools connect with community resources, offering guidance on improving investigations and clarifying schools' legal obligations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

Under investigation

The following schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, as of May 1:

•Arizona State University

•Butte-Glen Community College District

•Occidental College

•University of California-Berkeley

•University of Southern California

•Regis University

•University of Colorado at Boulder

•University of Colorado at Denver

•University of Denver

•University of Connecticut

•Catholic University of America

•Florida State University

•Emory University

•University of Hawaii at Manoa

•University of Idaho

•Knox College

•University of Chicago

•Indiana University-Bloomington

•Vincennes University

•Amherst College

•Boston University

•Emerson College

•Harvard College

•Harvard University - Law School

•University of Massachusetts-Amherst

•Frostberg State University

•Michigan State University

•University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

•Guilford College

•University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

•Minot State University

•Dartmouth College

•Princeton University

•Cuny Hunter College

•Hobar and William Smith Colleges

•Sarah Lawrence College

•Suny at Binghamton

•Denison University

•Ohio State University

•Wittenberg University

•Oklahoma State University

•Carnegie Mellon University

•Franklin and Marshall College

•Pennsylvania State University

•Swarthmore College

•Temple University

•Vanderbilt University

•Southern Methodist University

•The University of Texas Pan-American

•College of William and Mary

•University of Virginia

•Washington State University

•University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

•Bethany College

•West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Source: U.S. Department of Education

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