- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A federal investigation into the University of Kansas for its handling of a sexual assault complaint is still unresolved amid a national backlog of cases.

The U.S. Department of Education released a list in May 2014 that showed colleges that were under investigation for their response in sexual violence cases. At that time, there were 55 open investigations nationwide, but the number has since increased to 134.

Under the department’s Office for Civil Rights guidelines, the office’s investigators should resolve cases in 180 days, or around six months. The average investigation on the list has been open for 13 months, and a few have been open for more than four years, the Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/1JdHjw9 ) reported.

A department spokesman said 11 cases have been resolved since May 2014. The department said it doesn’t comment on individual cases, but notes that in general, the investigations are complicated and that the department needs more money for more staff to keep up with caseloads.

“Sexual violence investigations tend to be highly complex - involving not just an individual’s complaint, but sometimes reaching back years to study a university’s culture and response to other claims of sexual assaults,” said Denise Horn, the agency’s assistant press secretary.

The department has requested funding to hire 200 more staffers nationwide to handle its increased caseload, which also includes other categories of complaints besides sexual violence, Horn said.

University spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said the school is cooperating with the Office for Civil Rights and declined to say more. But she added that, “with 134 universities under OCR investigation … this national dialogue has allowed the KU community to take a critical look at what the university can be doing better.”

Colleges’ investigations of sex assaults reported on their campuses are separate from criminal investigations, which only ensue when victims report an assault to law enforcement. Schools must comply with Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education. Schools must investigate reports of sexual violence, work to prevent it and help victims.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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