Despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has limited the function of some government entities, the U.S. Department of Education continues to aggressively pursue Title IX investigations. In March of this year, the Department's Office for Civil Rights informed Penn State University that Title IX system requires an overhaul.
Continued Fallout from the Sandusky Scandal
The current review of Penn State's Title IX compliance began in 2014 after assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's conviction on 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012. While the review has continued since 2014, the compliance issues brought to light by the Office for Civil Rights occurred more recently. Given all of the attention that Penn State has faced in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, it is disappointing that so many serious problems have remained at that university system," said assistant secretary for civil rights Kenneth Marcus.
Current Allegations of Compliance Failures
The issues raised by the Office for Civil Rights are related to issues over the course of the previous two school years. In communicating with the university, the Department of Education alleged the university had repeatedly failed to appropriately respond to sexual harassment allegations. They also pointed to a failure to maintain Title IX compliance records failed to comply with their own rules during different steps of Title IX investigations.
Penn State's failures impacted the rights of those accused of wrongdoing by the school in a number of ways. The report from the Department of Education alleges that students and employees accused of sexual harassment and other offenses were not properly notified of school procedures in Title IX cases. Further, it found the university was unable to ensure the fair and appropriate investigation of complaints. This resulted from a lack of set procedure on how complaints were to be handled and no firm time frame in which investigations should be completed. In some cases, the school failed to even inform the parties involved of the outcome.
There were also major record-keeping issues. The report alleged that many important records were missing or never created, while others were redundant. There was also a lack of communication between the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response. This record-keeping failure had the potential to disadvantage a student facing a Title IX hearing.
In an effort to address these failures, Penn State University entered into a resolution agreement with the Department of Education. This agreement requires the university to update its Title IX policies and record-keeping practices. Additionally, the university must report to the Office of Civil Rights when handling each complaint during the 2019-2020 and 2020-21 school years.
Discuss Your Disciplinary Violation with Joseph Lento
When universities fail to uphold their own Title IX rules and regulations, most of the focus is on the accusers. The reality is these failures routinely put the accused at an unfair disadvantage. If you are facing school discipline, contact national Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento at 888-535-3686 to have your rights protected.