William and Mary among 55 schools facing sex assault investigation

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by 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 21 at 4:50 AM

WASHINGTON, DC -- The College of William and Mary and The University of Virginia are among 55 colleges and universities under Title IX sex abuse investigations.

The Department of Education list was released Thursday morning.

Officials say investigators are looking at possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints at each institution. 

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. All colleges, universities and K-12 schools receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX.

In a statement to WVEC.com, Wililam and Mary spokesman Brian Whitson said, "We have received notification about a complaint made to the Office of Civil Rights and we are working with them to provide the information they requested. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prohibits me from discussing the details of the specific case that led to this but, in general, I can tell you sexual assault response and education is an area we are very focused on. We continually look at our own practices to determine if they can be improved or enhanced. Since this is a broad review of our policies and practices by OCR , the result may well provide us valuable information as we continue to look at new ways to address an issue that confronts every university in the country."

Reaction to the investigation was mixed on the campus of William and Mary.

"I just feel like it's something the school handles fairly well,” said Emma Pierce, a sophomore resident assistant at William and Mary. “We [residents] make sure all of our residents male and female, know about resources in case something like this happens, we're a very safe school and we try to keep it that way.”

But other students, like fellow RA Cora Karamitsos, say the school could use more resources in handling sexual assault victims.
 
“I do think that like while we [RAs] try our best to have people report it, it's still greatly unreported,” explained Karamitsos. “There definitely could be more money and more resources on every campus, but also here at William and Mary."

The DoE says sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent -- including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.

"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.

"We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law," Lhamon added.

Click here to see all the schools on the DoE list.

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