The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the US Department of Education, has announced that it found the administration at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware, in violation of Title IX due to its handling of sexual assault allegations made against its students. Title IX is the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex at universities that receive federal assistance. The college signed an agreement with the OCR, committing to protecting the rights of both the accusers and the accused in future investigations into sexual assault allegations.
The OCR began investigating Wesley College’s method of addressing sexual misconduct allegations after an accused student filed a complaint with the Department of Education. The student on whose behalf the complaint was filed had been accused, charged, and expelled from the college in just seven days, not long before he was scheduled to graduate. Three other Wesley students had been similarly charged and expelled on a short timeline.
The OCR found a number of troubling aspects to Wesley’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations, largely centering on the accused student’s inability to fully respond to, rebut, or defend against the charges. For example, even before the accused student had been interviewed by members of the school’s administration, the student was suspended on the day the allegation was made. In fact, the student was not once interviewed during the investigation of the alleged misconduct. The student was unable to review the incident report prior to his hearing, and he and others like him had been unable to call witnesses to the stand or present additional evidence at the hearing.
The OCR determined that, without these critical procedural safeguards, Wesley had violated Title IX’s protections. The OCR also found that these investigations were taking place on too accelerated a time table, preventing the accused from being able to review, gather, and present all evidence relevant to their defense. Additionally, both parties did not always receive written reports explaining the outcome of investigations into sexual misconduct, and the university was found to have failed to adequately publicize the process for how complaints are filed and investigated. In its agreement with the OCR, Wesley stated that, among other things, it would review whether its investigation process was too accelerated, seek out more feedback from students on the investigation process, and complete a new investigation of the allegations made against the student who complained.
If you have been accused of sexual assault or misconduct on a college campus in Virginia, ensure that you receive the protections afforded you under the law by contacting the seasoned and dedicated Charlottesville criminal defense attorneys at St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana for a consultation, at 434-296-7138.