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February 25, 2010
12:46 PM

Lax Federal Enforcement in Campus Sexual Assault Cases

Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office Rarely Investigates and Almost Never Sanctions Schools

WASHINGTON - February 25 - The Education Department is charged with enforcing laws on how schools deal with sexual assault, but its Office of Civil Rights rarely investigates student allegations of botched proceedings. When cases do go forward, the civil rights office rarely rules against the schools, and virtually never issues any sanctions against institutions, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

Officials at the civil rights office have said punishing schools is unnecessary and impractical; the office's ultimate potential penalty of rescinding federal funds is enough to scare schools straight with a few well-placed words. And by law, the office has few tools for intermediate sanctions; it can't issue fines, for instance. But critics see it differently; they say the office's enforcement of how schools handle cases involving alleged sexual assaults is overly friendly, which ultimately lets colleges - and rapists - off the hook.

The story, "Lax Enforcement of Title IX in Campus Sexual Assault Cases," is the second of three new pieces being released this week as part of the Center's Sexual Assault on Campus series. A story released Wednesday revealed that students found "responsible" for sexual assaults on campus often face little or no punishment from school judicial systems, while their victims lives are frequently turned upside down. Three earlier pieces in the series ran last December.  

The Center's package marks a number of significant collaborative efforts, including a series of three stories and a Talk of the Nation call-in program from National Public Radio News. The NPR Series was produced by a special NPR Investigative Unit with reports airing on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The Center for Public Integrity also collaborated with the Investigative News Network, a coalition of some two dozen news organizations dedicated to watchdog journalism. The Center's pieces will be accompanied by localized campus assault stories from five members of the network - the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Texas Watchdog, the Rocky Mountain News Network, and Investigate West.

The network was formed last summer following a three-day meeting of mostly nonprofit investigative journalism groups in New York. The mission of the network is to facilitate the work and public reach of its member organizations, to foster high-quality, original investigative journalism, and to hold government and corporate power accountable at the local, national, and international levels.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.


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